Yesterday, there was a blogsplash organised by Fiona Robyn of Writing Our Way Home in celebration of the release of her new book 'The Most Beautiful Thing'. Bloggers all over the world were invited to write about their 'most beautiful thing'.
I kind of planned to join in, but the day got a bit gritty and a bit stressed and then a bit busy. Then I had a lovely visit from a friend which led to tea and cake and dinner and hectic kids jumping off the furniture and generally no space for writing anything. However, I found lots of beauty in the day anyway.
First off, when I went to brush my teeth in the morning, I found that there was no water coming out of the tap. This is an annoying thing that happens in our house quite regularly. Maybe the plumbing's so rigged up with the neighbours that when they're using their taps ours don't work? I don't know, but we've got used to a slightly unpredictable water supply in our bathroom. Yesterday, in my attentive search for beauty, I decided not to get irritated by this and appreciate the way that it reminds me how amazing it is that I can expect to be provided with clean water at the turn of a tap in my home! The injustice which this brings to mind certainly isn't a beautiful thing - the statistics stating that over 3 and a half million people die each year from a water related disease, including the equivalent of one child every 20 seconds and that 884 million people lack access to clean water. So, I think about these things and the luxury of having clean running water in my home and decide that I won't worry too much about calling a plumber to sort out our temporary inconvenience, because it's important to be reminded of how precious and valuable water is, and how we can never take it for granted. Then, after several minutes, it starts flowing again and I can truly see and feel and taste it's beauty!
Later, I'm trying to do five things at once. Hanging washing out, trying to stop the dog digging up cat poo and dragging muddy sticks through the house, making porridge, planning a home education activity, supervising my son with his penknife as he whittles an old piece of wood he just found into what I think is a long-necked goose but he tells me is a knife. In the midst of me stressing about the way he's handling the penknife and my heart pounding that he'll slice off a finger, he says "I love turning something that's rotten into something that's beautiful". And there it is, another beautiful thing, and I relax a little and just look at it, the moment with all it's risk and worry softening into love and gratitude. (With the added bonus of all fingers still attached when he puts the knife away and goes inside to do something else!)
When we're walking the dog, I pick up a fallen stick from under a willow tree and take it home just in case. Later on I manage a sneaky moment out in the garden with one of my son's recent birthday presents. I used to enjoy whittling spoons but haven't used my knife for a couple of years. Chris Lubkemann's 'Little Book of Whittling' reinspired me in a couple of minutes.
This led to my picked up stick evolving into a dog (howling up at the moon perhaps) which can also be a knife /athame / letter opener. It was whittled mostly in moments during the evening when it became a retreat from some shouty, stressy stuff happening. By the time I was ready to go to bed, it was finished but for a bit of sanding, some eyes and oiling, which I finished it off with this morning. Despite the little crack which appeared across its nose overnight as it was drying out, I look at it and feel my son's joy at the transformation which can happen under our own hands.
I still can't really say what my one most beautiful thing is. I think it's deeper than one person or one thing, even though on the surface I might immediately name those things. I think it's more in that sentiment expressed by my son yesterday - the ability to and the love of turning 'something that's rotten into something that's beautiful'. As long as we can do this, we can still find meaning and motivation to stay engaged with the world, to never tire of searching out its beauty, and not feel defeated by its rottenness.