April 15th, 2011

Ugly-beautiful, plain beautiful, ways to see

Yesterday Mathilde screamed her way through the day. I kept trying to see the beauty in it — in a mom who is haggard and tired. I put on a dress yesterday, did my hair in a little twisty arrangement, and yet even trying to look good on the outside had no effect on my soul and interior. It was an off day for her — was she sick? tired? teething? No answer, no not really. I just saw she needed me more. And her screams indicated it. But even seeing that was not tapping into anything beautiful about it.

Talking to my friend Carolyn, she got the beautiful part immediately. She saw the needy child as beautiful, as something to behold and treasure; even in the midst of screaming. She also understood how tiring it can be to have a two-year-old who is inconsolable an entire daylong.

I texted my husband at four o’clock: If you’re merciful, you’ll come home early with wine. He is, and he did — a nice crisp bottle of Mâcon-lugny. And last night, when it was quiet and the girls were asleep, we started watching Song of Bernadette, a movie from the 1940s about a simple, beautiful girl who sees the Virgin Mary in heavenly visions.

I realized yesterday that the Greek word for adornment is like the word cosmos in English, and that it contains the idea of beauty as ordering and arranging. I see the orderliness and the drop-dead gorgeousness of the cosmos when I’m out under a dark sky or looking at a planet or a star that is millions of light-years away. There is order and beauty in its existence. I see it in flower arrangements that have nice degree of height and fullness and color balance, in a bookshelf that is dusted and pleasantly arranged, in rooms without clutter.

I crave order and beauty elsewhere.

Ann VosKamp writes about the ugly-beautiful and how the French call it d’un beau affreux and how in German it is referred to as hübsch-hässlich. I have known about the Japanese version, wabi-sabi, which embraces as beautiful the imperfect, the asymmetrical, and that which is full of asperity. I can see the ugly-beautiful looking at an antique bench that is full of flaws, but I can’t so easily see it in my own life. Not in my own physical imperfections, not in the imperfections of our home and all that needs to be done to maintain and refresh it, not in the struggles of putting a child in the car seat who is crying and kicking, nor in the older sister who is fiercely shouting when angered. But I am still on the hunt.

  1. parasols said: This reminded me of the Danish term “hygge”, when you were talking about order and beauty— I know it is more of a term for orderly coziness, hard to translate, but it’s an idea I love. I hope you’re feeling better, sweet lady.
  2. hollygonightly said: Beauty in the ugliness, hope from defeat and order in chaos…this all reminds me about a line from Tim O’Brien’s, The Things We Carried. Granted he’s talking about war, but some days it really feels like a battle, doesn’t it?
  3. mrsgeiger posted this
But I've got a girl in the war, Paul
The only thing I know to do
Is turn up the music
And pray that she makes it through.
—Josh Ritter