Recently, I was challenged to see the beauty in a series of things mentioned in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, called Pied Beauty. For those who are not familiar with it, and for those who are, here is the poem.
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
In this poem, Hopkins gives thanks for the beauty in several things, which most people would not see as beauty. They were (1) a dappled thing, (2) the gear, tackle, and trim of a trade, (3) something counter, (4) something original, (5) something spare, (6) something strange, and (7) something fickle. So how do we find beauty in these things. To be honest, I was not quite sure what dappled meant. It means to be covered with spots or round patches. It was then that I realized that he talks about the “dappled” things, which he found beautiful, the mottled white and blue colors of the sky, the spots on the coy, the contrasting colors on a trout, and the way a roasted chestnut is one color on the inside and another on the outside. I can see beauty in the multicolored wings of finches, and the diverse textures found in farmland during the various seasons.
As I began thinking about this I realized that like Hopkins I see beauty in the various shapes of white clouds against a blue sky. I also see it in freckles on a child’s face. I see beauty in the brown spots, which appear on the bananas on our kitchen table as they ripen. I see beauty both in the external things, which have spots and patches, but also in the internal contrasts that exist such as he talks about in the chestnuts. I see the beauty in those whose outer beauty is not reflective of the spiritual and creative beauty that burns within them. Those who have been roasted over an open fire through life’s experiences, yet their inner beauty reveals something that was created over time and through the journey.
I can also see the beauty in the gear, tackle, and trim of a trade. I can see the beauty in my keyboard, which helps me to release the meditations of my heart into the universe. I can see the beauty in the textbooks that open up new understandings for my students. I can see beauty in the thoughts that are inspired in me through all that comes to me as I journey with people in this ministry.
I can see the beauty in something counter. So often we are trained to look for beauty in those things that are embraced by culture. However, often times it is in those things that are counter cultural, things or situations or people who go against the norm. I find beauty in those people who have created their own ways of creating in the world when they found they could not fit into the institutions for which they trained. I find beauty in what we are able to create when we forget how we are supposed to do or be. Perhaps that is why so often I see beauty in the original. I can see the beauty in something that is unlike what I have seen before and does not appear to have been created to fit a mold. It is also what enables me to see or spend time seeking the beauty in each human being I meet because we are all originals. There is not, never has been, never will be anyone exactly like anyone of us.
I can see the beauty in those things Hopkins refers to as spare, strange, or fickle. Sometimes the beauty is in sharing what is spare with others. Each year a friend of mine thanks me for giving her a spare pair of winter gloves I had as they always keep her warm. I can see the beauty in the spare blanket, which is now helping a homeless person to stay a little warmer. I can see the beauty in those spare buttons, which once came together with some spare glue to cover the top of a box and create something strange, original, creative, and beautiful. I can find the beauty in the fickle as well. I can see the beauty in those who are willing to say I am not sure if this is what I am supposed to be doing or not. There is a beauty in walking in one’s truth and forgetting the rules others have taught us about how we are supposed to be. I can see the beauty in the fickle who go with the flow and do not allow themselves to be imprisoned by a sense of loyalty, even if it means they are fickle about me and what I am doing in and with my life.
While I was not challenged to do so, I came to realize that I could see the beauty in all things pied. In my own way I am pied. I am the blending of two colors, that of my birth mother and my birth father. Perhaps that is what has helped me see the beauty in all things pied. So where do you see the beauty in things? Do you see the beauty in the pied, the strange, the original, the dappled, and the fickle? Where and how do you see the pied beauty in life?