The days have been glorious, full of light and color bursting from the trees. Early autumn: lingering sunny afternoons with a sweet crisp smell in the air has always been one of my favorite times of year. For many years, I would spend hours collecting leaves of all shapes and sizes with my kids. We would bring home bags of leaves and create collages of them sandwiched between clear adhesive paper. We would then cover the windows with our creations and watch the late afternoon light shining through the leaves. It is my favorite fall ritual, this stopping to collect and be with the beauty around us.
I have only recently come to understand how central beauty is to fully realizing our humanity. For a long time, I confused beauty and prettiness. It is easy to get lost between the two in our culture because we prize youthful human beauty so highly. It is hard to be a woman aging in this culture for that reason. But the more I move towards beauty in my days, the more that I realize that it has little to do with how I look; although I wouldn’t mention this to my 12-year-old daughter.
The beauty that I am searching for is the eternal kind. The one that shows itself in every season and grows within me even as my skin loses its firm connection to the bones in my face. The changing colors of the trees, or the early budding of flowers; the way that light spreads through the grass in the late afternoon sun, the color of the sky at dusk. These are the lessons of beauty that I am looking for everyday. This is the kind of beauty that heals me, even as I am ever more aware of my own fading style.
Recognizing and moving towards beauty heals and transforms us. It is one of the clearest access points to the finest parts of our selves. Honing my eyes to filter the world though a lens that sees the beauty all around me is the mature form of self beautification. It is how I can hold and mirror what is beautiful back to other people. It is how I can witness the beautiful acts of goodness that are waiting to be seen.
Gibran also said this about beauty, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” This kind of looking at the world brings me beauty that I can hold, regardless of what happens to my aging face.