Tony Hillerman's novels about Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, he writes about the Navajo concept of Beauty, and a way of life informed by the sense of harmony between all things. Clearly, this can be a tad tricky for a police officer (and central character in a crime novel!) but there is a Beauty Way ceremony for when someone needs to restore this harmony.
My words will be beautiful…
(Brought up Roman Catholic, I was reminded of
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me,Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
.. which I have just found out is from a long poem called Lorica, or St Patrick's Breastplate)
Anyway, while I am a bilagáana, the Navajo equivalent of a guíri, I see beauty above me, when I'm out and about in the city with the sky overhead. You can't beat the sky for beauty; even in the past week, when it has seemed best to view it from behind glass, wrapped in a shawl, and sustained by numerous cups of tea. Then there are trees. (Pause for quiet, reverent wow...)
And beauty beside me in the man-made details of thoughtful architecture: planes and angles, windows and doors, patterned brickwork, wrought iron, roof tiles, plasterwork. And the quirky, human happenstance of people's ordinary lives expressed in balconies of strange cacti, laundry, cagebirds singing their hearts out all day long, and solitary chairs and stools angled to catch the sun or shade. And pensioners walking their dogs, and parents pushing toddlers on swings, and the greengrocer who polishes every piece of fruit as he builds his pavement display each morning. More than enough to distract eye, ear and heart from the regular patches of spiritless and bland, and occasional outbreaks of full-on ugly. (O... M... G...!!!!!) Oops. Bad case of urban - beauty within me is always the tricky one, but the others help.
So, can I have beautiful please? Personally, I lack the spark that makes the artist, the skill and confidence that marks the artesan, and the discipline of either. Forever the amateur, driven by enthusiasm, but hampered by two and a half thumbs and limited time and patience, my progress through painting (acrylics, water colours), drawing (pencils, pastels), needlework (dressmaking, quilting, embroidery, knitting, crochet, weaving), handicrafts (metal sculpture, origami, paper engineering, clay modelling) and gardening (pots, allotment, garden, balcony, terrace) resembles a long series of handbrake turns, or a world record number of driving lessons. Sigh. So, yes, my greatest natural talent appears to be that of creating chaos out of order, like a puppy in a wool basket - Woofdidoo! But now... 135x190... =D
Still, I know what I like, and I like a lot of things. I have a very good eye for colour, line and form. My eyes, ears and skin appreciate texture. So do my nose and taste buds: when my husband emerges from the kitchen in the evening, the fragrant steam rising from plates of home-made pie and gravy - or salmon, tiny green peas and dill-speckled sauce - or beer-battered chish & fips - or yesterday's bolognese sauce reworked as chilli con carne on a bed of white basmati - ooh... I succumb...
However, when I aspire to beauty at home, that's when the trouble starts, because as is apparent, I don't just look, I like to make. Now, if I did have real talent or skill (and a sense of direction...), we'd be fine, because I would have a studio for my mess, or would have developed tidy habits over time. But no. Almost inevitably, I start at one end of the sofa, with ideas, assorted materials, and a book or two; subsequently colonising the rest of the sofa, the footstool, sometimes the dining table, and occasionally the sewing machine and ironing board too; bashing away enthusiastically, and gradually narrowing it down to a central idea. I usually get a beautiful result, in the end, but getting there is an object lesson in how much mess one person can generate in a living room in a short time, and then sustain for - oh - however long it takes to work out where she's going, and how to get there. I think I've probably got worse since I discovered Ravelry and crochet, and the amazing possibilities of a deceptively easy handicraft that has been hammering at the doors of Art for decades now. Who knew? Oh, only thousands and thousands of people all over the world. Ooh! Freeform! Ooh! Irish crochet! Ooh! Russian crochet! Ooh! sock yarns! hand-dyed yarns! plastic! wire! Working on my skills, reading up, consulting...... If a butterfly took speed... Maybe I should change my user name to What-a-mess.
But storage permits organisation, and organisation permits order, and out of order may just come beauty.
Next time, though I want one of these!