On Beautiful Things

I took some pictures late last week to illustrate today’s post, and then decided at the last minute (12:12am, to be exact), not to use them. The fact is, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and the things I think are beautiful, you may or may not, and if you do, it may well be for an entirely different reason than mine.

I started thinking about things I consider “beautiful” and why when I was admiring some pottery at our local renaissance fair a week ago or so. I was thinking about how the different artist’s work affected me differently, and some “spoke” to me more or less than others. I have some theories that still need to percolate before I try to express them, but the overreaching truth is, it matters who handles the clay. And that’s not to say any of it is better or worse than any other piece, but merely to say that what makes a piece of pottery beautiful to me personally is more than anything I could actually describe satisfactorily.

I have been trying for days to put words to what called me to the tiny little brown pot/vase that now sits on my desk at work. I could tell you that it’s the lines of the piece, the gentle curve that leads gracefully up to a longish neck, or the glaze that somehow came out in the subtlest of pinstripes that give the piece dimension and movement. I could even tell you it’s the imperfections, the little mistakes that maybe happened during firing or when something was jarred in transit and marred the glaze.

The fact is though, it’s all and none of those things all at once that I find attractive about that tiny little pot. There is a quality about it that maybe wouldn’t draw the attention of anyone else, but every time I look at it, it’s almost mesmerizing to me. Does it have that effect on other people? Probably. But certainly not all.

This past Saturday, my mom and I were perusing the local Strawberry Festival vendors, and there was an older lady there selling her tole painting pieces. Most of it was stuff that…looked to me like most other chairs and tables and platters and such, but then on our second pass through, I saw a wooden box that for whatever reason, I found incredibly, undeniably attractive. There’s really nothing special about the pattern or painting, but I find it soothing and restful to look at, and it puts me in a calm, relaxed state of mind just to see it. I bought it, of course, and my mom brought up the fact that sometimes, we just have to surround ourselves with things we find beautiful, even if we have no other practical use for them (like my tiny pot – I’ll use the wooden box for stamps).

I don’t really have a point to all this, but it did make me think about what we perceive as “beautiful” or “attractive” vs what other people see. The filters we all bring to the table with us are so incredibly complex that it’s amazing any of us ever agree on anything as far as beautiful and/or attractive.

In any case, I’ll be writing a book this fall where beauty and what it is is the central theme, and I can’t help but wonder whether my character and I will agree on what is beautiful and what is…not. It should be a very interesting and intense journey we take together…


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