Many years ago now, I went through a major lifechange that knocked me off my feet. It was a painful time, but God carried me through it, comforting and strengthening me in the process. He used beauty as a balm for the grief I was experiencing.
When I emerged, I felt as though my senses were awakened and alive in a whole new way. And I wanted to see, experience, and surround myself with beauty from then on.
So I intentionally started pursuing it. I went to art museums, the symphony, and the theater. I read good books, dove into the poetry of scripture in the Psalms. I began to notice nature more than before. I opened my eyes, my ears, and my heart to beauty.
A few years later, along came a man who enjoyed art and beauty too. Our first official date was a play. Our second date was a concert. The next few were arts festivals. Ever since then, we have intentionally filled our life together with beauty.
Yesterday was his birthday, and we are spending a few days in Savannah, one of our favorite places. (I’ve written about Savannah before here and here.) It has been gray, overcast, and rainy since we arrived, so all of my photos are faded greenery (because it’s fall) under a white sky.
But we are loving it nonetheless. We have rented our “regular” ground-floor apartment in an old building right off one of the historic squares. The apartment is tucked into a side street filled with sounds: church bells, clopping hooves and jingly bells of horses pulling carriages of tourists, and tour guides on tour buses narrating Savannah’s rich history over a microphone. Every once in a while we catch snatches of conversations among pedestrians passing by in front.
We don’t care about any of these sounds, though. We are happy here in our historic apartment with original brick walls, exposed beams, funky layout, and slanted floors. Every morning we walk through the historic district, taking photos and dreaming about what it would be like to live and work here. Often we stop at Collins Quarter for a lavender chocolate espresso for him and a pot of English Breakfast tea for me. Later, for lunch or dinner, we might check out a new restaurant for lunch, or pick up an afternoon treat at Leopolds, famous for their ice cream since 1919. We walk down to the river and stop to shop at favorite stores along the way.
On every visit to Savannah, we go to the Jepson Center at the Telfair Museums. We have seen some fascinating exhibits here, but the current one, Monet to Matisse, is my favorite. Yesterday, we saw several Impressionist paintings I’ve never seen before in person or in books. Here are my top three paintings with a short description of why.
Renoir is a favorite of mine from my first Art Appreciation class—particularly his paintings of women. This painting, however, shows beauty in nature, specifically a wild, stormy moment on the frothy sea of the English Channel. We get the feeling that if we were any closer, we’d be drenched.
Mary Cassatt, an American, devoted herself to painting at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing careers in art. She studied in Paris, became part of the Impressionists’ circle, and decided to stay on permanently with her sister and parents. This painting, The Visitor, is of her sister, Lydia. Cassatt was looked down upon for her paintings depicting domestic life, and yet those scenes show beauty in the ordinary, everydayness of life.
Marc Chagall’s work fits into several major art movements, but he was known for his use of symbolism and color. His painting above, called The Dreamer, captured my attention from across the gallery. His beloved wife, Bella, had recently died, and it represents a working out of his grief on canvas.
Because I’m a CS Lewis fan, Chagall’s painting reminded me immediately of Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed, where Lewis chronicles in raw, aching prose his struggle to come to terms with the loss of his beloved wife, Joy. In a sense, both he and Chagall allowed the world to observe grief from a distance and perhaps gain a better understanding of it in the process.
I think there’s beauty in sharing our pain with others, because it can be mutually beneficial.
Even more, I believe God brings beauty out of pain and comforts us in it—if we allow Him to.
After all, I became drawn to beauty because of a painful time in my own life.
It gives me great joy to share it with you through this blog. I’m also @glimsen on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Follow me on social media for lots of photos of beauty that never make it to the blog.
Which type of beauty are you drawn to: beauty in nature, the arts, the unexpected, or somewhere else? I would love to know what moves you, and I might even write a post about it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.