Saturday, September 16, 2006

Surprised by beauty

I wanted to post some pictures and thoughts that began in our post-wedding trip to Banff and Lake Louise. I realized something on our first day, when we took the gondola up the mountain: I have trouble taking pictures of - and even fully enjoying - things that have already been recognized by the general public as beautiful. If there’s already a postcard of it, I don’t feel like taking my own picture. On top of that mountain, I found myself lamenting that it was all so already-discovered.
It’s like beauty isn’t as beautiful unless you chance upon it, the way Daniel and I chanced upon this tree. I remembered Sophia’s story about the old church she found in the middle of nowhere, and the way Chris got excited every time an unannounced storm appeared on the horizon, and how Claire stopped by the side of the road to take pictures of cows. Part of the beauty of these things is that we were not prepared for them – they caught us by surprise and bowled us over.

I guess I’m not a fan of crowded, expected, publicized beauty. I want beauty new, just blossomed, fresh fallen. I want to be the one to find it and name it beautiful. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful – the boardwalks and stairs and gondolas were great, but they stole something, something private between my Creator and I. They stole that moment when hidden beauty is revealed and we delight in it together.
I heard a story about a scientist (I’ve tried for hours to figure out what his name was…) who was poring over his research on DNA, late into the night, trying to figure out something to do with DNA structure. After hours of thought, it suddenly came together in his head – he had discovered the secret and cracked the code! But instead of calling all of his scientist friends to share the news, he just sat there for the rest of the night. When his friends asked him why, he said, “For those hours, only my Creator and I knew this secret. I wanted to savor it with Him.” For the briefest of moments, after hearing this story, I wanted to go into research.

Until I realized I didn’t have to be in research to experience this. For example…the other day, early in the morning, I was down at my Rock alone, watching a few ducks and a goose splashing in the ocean. Then, in unison, they all calmly stepped onto shore and stood there. I felt like they knew something I didn’t. Full of anticipation, I looked out at the water, and sure enough, there were three heads poking out over the surface of the water. They looked like beaver heads, but beavers are freshwater animals…no…they were sea otters! The first ones I’d ever seen in the wild! I think I shouted something original like “Sea otters!” and took off running down the beach, chasing them along the shore. They dove and surfaced again, snorting water through their whiskers. I saw one catch a fish and eat it. They saw me – they seemed to look right at me and extend their necks far above the surface. I was in awe. At that moment, only God and I were enjoying those beautiful, playful animals.

Later that day, this group of leaves just popped out of a tree at me – all red and yellow, they seemed to be on fire, lit up with colour, like a signature. Again, I wanted to burst into song. These are my favorite moments – I’m sure they’re happening all the time, and I miss many because my eyes aren’t open wide enough. They’re why, whenever possible, I have my quiet time with God outdoors. I’d like to think He draws sea otters and leaves on fire towards me, placing them in my path, and then whispers, “Here, Beth. I want to share this with you – let you in on this secret. I want you to share my delight in this. My gift to you…”

Loren Wilkenson, my prof for “Christianity and Science,” read us a quote by E.O. Wilson, where he wishes God would take him to a new planet so he can spend years just discovering and exploring and being the best kind of scientist. I’m more optimistic. I don’t wish – I am confident – that this will be my experience when God makes the new heavens and new earth…I will spend eternity in endless discovery, with beauty always fresh and waiting, and hundreds upon thousands of secrets to be shared.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Beth; you don't know me, I just chanced upon your blog. I felt I had to comment because I thought your last post was amazing and beautiful. I know the thrill of discovering and delighting in what God lets us see. Thank you for inspiring me with your writing and may you continue to enjoy Him forever.
-Christine

sophia said...

beth, i just love you... i know EXACTLY what you felt when you saw those sea otters...i've known a few of those moments where you actually gasp and feel like you're caught in this unbelievably lucky moment and you wouldnt dare look away, even if you were about to be hit by a truck or something... man, i was gonna start writing you a letter earlier today, but i read a bit of your book instead, and then fell asleep.. and slept in for the connection.. but anywayyy, i'll go and write about it right now, cuz i'm full of thoughts and feelings and you're the perfect one to share them with... :) have a BEAUTIFUL day tomorrow..

Rachel Malena said...

"I guess I’m not a fan of crowded, expected, publicized beauty. I want beauty new, just blossomed, fresh fallen. I want to be the one to find it and name it beautiful. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful – the boardwalks and stairs and gondolas were great, but they stole something, something private between my Creator and I. They stole that moment when hidden beauty is revealed and we delight in it together"

beth i hope someday someone says this about me!