The Sense of the Beautiful…

A [wo]man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of this life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is my son’s viola. I shot [and edited] this photograph a couple of years ago while he was preparing to participate with the middle school orchestra in his school’s Christmas concert.

When he was about 18 months old, my not-little one was so moved by a classical piece playing in the background that he started crying. He did not understand the music, but it certainly touched something in him. I’ve often wondered if he was responding to “the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

Don’t we–adults–sometimes respond similarly when we encounter something awe-inspiring?  Have you ever been moved to tears by the profound beauty of a thing?

To Grieve? To Celebrate?

The holiday season is here in full force. Even though I love it, sometimes, I struggle to get into the “holiday spirit.” However, this year I wanted to begin the Christmas season months ago.

I need the tree, the blinking lights, the decorations, the cheer. There has been so much loss and chaos that it’s a relief to focus on something celebratory.

Conversely, there has been so much loss this year that it is difficult to be present for all the magic and beauty of the season. There are no words to lessen the burden of grief for those who have lost spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends, especially when the entire world seems to be grieving.

I wish I could reach out and hug the world with my words, but nothing I write would suffice.

But there is healing in words. Especially those we speak. I know everyone grieves differently, but I wonder what would happen for us if instead of suffering in silence, we’d wail in agony and expose the gnawing ache and gaping emptiness.

How liberating it would be to not “handle it well,” but give into it en masse!

My favorite bard places words of wisdom in the mouth of his character, Ross, who, after relating the slaughter of Macduff’s wife and children at the hands of Macbeth, urges him [Macduff] to express his grief because unexpressed grief burdens and breaks the heart:

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3, Lines 245-246

Maybe in speaking, those all-consuming emotions will begin to feel more manageable and we’ll eventually find our way to celebration. Maybe, we’ll breathe and feel alive again and welcome the sadness of loss as only one part of life’s story.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Shut It Down!

Grainy Black and White: Fallen Magnolia Leaves

Plans for my “Coping with 2020” series were slightly derailed because, as one of my former students put it, this week was “ugly.” There’s no other way to put it. I worked 14-19 hour days almost every day this week. COVID-19 numbers rose daily. Zeta knocked down trees and power in NOLA and other places. And it seemed the whole world expressed anxiety about what we might wake up to November 4. By Thursday, I was livid because there was no relief from the noise.

One part of 2020’s madness for me is too much doing, too much noise all the time. Everywhere we turn. Noise. Someone or something telling us what to do, how to do it, how to think. Noise. Piling up our plates. Vying for control of our time and energy. Noise. Noise we seemingly can’t escape because doom and Zoom are everywhere.

Grainy Black and White: Impatiens

So how do I cope? I shut it down. Everything. Computers. Phone. All of it. And I sit, drive, or walk in total silence.

I’ve always loved the early morning and late night quiet and the rare but not impossible moment of respite from the daily noise in the middle of the day. But silence is different. We can always find quiet. Silence, ever-present and always within reach, seeks us, but we have to be intentional about being found.

Silence. When there are too many words and too much doing. Silence. When it’s easy to grab the phone and chat away whatever spare moments we can find. Silence. When we can put in our earbuds and tune out the world through music and podcasts. Silence. When the world is loud and boisterous and simply too much.

Grainy Black and White: Begonias

So this week—in the middle of the umpteenth multitasking Zoom meeting, just after the department’s student assistant knocked with one more issue she couldn’t address—I hit mute, closed my eyes and sat in silence.

I’m sure I was on the brink of screaming, “uncle!” That moment in the midst of the chaos saved my sanity.

When the world feels like too much—get off social media, turn off the tv, turn off all screens, ignore the phone and all the doing, and hit mute.

There is freedom and calm right in the middle of the silence.

Grainy Black and White: Magnolia Pods

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Create!

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

When my anxiety or stress levels heighten they are met with an equally strong desire to create. During the “lockdown phase” of the pandemic–March through July–I wrote poetry (almost daily), participated in seminars and workshops, tried new vegan recipes, painted, sang, doodled, and experimented with creative photography.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Since I returned to work in this pandemic season, the drive to create to combat the stress of this moment has been so intense that I had to add micro-creation sessions to my day.

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

I find a moment to doodle while thinking through a solution or while listening to a podcast or webinar. I fiddle with the lines of a poem I’ve already drafted in the wee morning hours. I transform a photo. I create inspirational Instagram posts.* I cut and tear pages from beautiful magazines and use them in art journal pages. I even do little things to create order out of the chaos of my desks [at home and at work].

“Flowers in Bloom” by Rae L.

Like journaling, there are many, many health benefits of creativity. These small, though intentional, acts of creativity allow me to tune out the chaotic noise of the world and find order within.


About the images: The set of floral art in this post is the work of Rae L, one of my Love Notes friends. She sent the envelope full of cheerful flowers a month or so ago. This is how she’s coping with the madness. Aren’t they lovely?

*A few weeks ago, my desire to create order spilled over to my Instagram page. I wiped my IG clean, changed my name, and created a uniform look for my page. If you have a moment, check it out. Maybe, you’ll be inspired: iamchandralynn.