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Abject of Beauty

…and the beauty of the leaf was not lost on him.—from Blood Meridian

Little children have a capacity for pure joy because they don’t yet know that everything is fleeting, mortal. They are still reverberating with the pulse of the other world. You can see it on their skin and on their eyelashes, like dew, and in the perfect, clear whites of their eyes.

As we grow, we inevitably come to realize the fact of death, and it forever shadows our experience of joy; true beauty has an element of sadness because we know it will not last.

I wonder if this is the reason why, in our modern culture, we have fabricated a sort of fake, superficial, soulless standard of beauty with our Kim Kardashians, our shopping malls, our manicured lawns, our home theaters and botox parties. It’s an attempt to experience beauty without its aftertaste of loss.

Of course it doesn’t work. But we will keep pretending.

It’s no wonder that art is a constant threat to a culture that cannot grieve.

The latest thing in Boston is that everyone is perpetually in exercise clothes. Customized sneakers and Lulu Lemons have replaced boat shoes and khakis. People are running along the Charles with a possessed gleam in their eyes. I suppose they are slimming down for their Match.com photos. They are polishing their armor with each stride.

I don’t get it. I walk slowly in the midst of things. In the mist. So I don’t miss. Things. The Is-ness that is everywhere. And my footprints become caked with the blood from my bleeding heart while knowing, damn well, it is the nature of a heart to bleed. It means you’re alive.

I look at my little one with awe. She is two. Her beauty has a translucent, shimmery quality. At times it seems that she is made of magic. While watching an episode of surprise eggs on youtube, she said with perfect articulation and fake exasperation, “It’s so boring. I want a cup of tea.”

I felt that familiar twinge between laughter and tears that only the coyote can speak. So, I texted our daughter’s words to my husband but something of the miracle of her budding language buds was lost in the writing of it which was probably for the best. My husband is at work and work is not a place where you can get all verklempt about such things.


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