Today I walked along the beach, alone. Thinking about beauty and…well…things we determine are not quite so beautiful. How every place and every person contains parts which don’t photograph as well.
Sometimes, when we first visit a place, we fall in love with all the beauty. Our eye follows loveliness; we admire this and that. We view the palm trees and sigh at the way they sway in the wind. Our heart thrills to the surf, to the low and high tides and white beaches and arching dolphins. Beauty surrounds us. It’s where our eyes so often follow, the thrill of the gorgeous.
Today the shores of Fort Myers Beach lie strewn with seaweed. Brownish-greenish seaweed everywhere. It’s not…how should I say this?…pretty. My mom and I have a theory (only a theory, mind you) that a rougher sea might blow the seaweed out into the depths. In the meantime, it lies thick, like an eyesore, blemishing the white shore.
I have another theory that beauty exists in most everything, although sometimes it’s hidden. You have to search deeper to see the patterns and glow and light which becomes obscured. A feather resting in the midst of brown mud-like seaweed perhaps reminds us of that possibility. To look a little more intently for the hidden patterns of beauty, rather than immediately dismiss our minds labeling things as “ugly”.
Several years ago my mom introduced me to a friend here in the condo. Her name was Kay Fisher Lewicky. She was in her 80’s then. She grew up in Austria before World War II, marrying a half-Jewish fellow. Her family worried for their safety and urged them to move to Paris. Still, they were sent to the camps.
She said the prostitutes imprisoned in the camp saved her. She was young then, and the “ladies of the night” convinced the guards not to take her away, and harbored her among them. Both she and her husband escaped (don’t ask me how) and moved to New York City. She later became the personal massage therapist for Neil Sedaka and in later years, when he came to this area to sing, a limousine brought her to his shows.
She created and painted shells from the beach, making art and beauty from the leftover chips of shells. From the “ugly” cracked pieces, she saw beauty and made little creatures which sometimes won awards in local craft shows.
Some folks might deem the following creature “less than beautiful” but look at that symmetry of legs and shell and strong pincers on that crab! A mother and her son, wading out a bit further than the seaweed, showed me the dead crab in their pink bucket. “The seaweed killed it,” the eight-year old boy told me solemnly. I don’t know if that’s true, but I asked him if we might photograph the crab. He agreed, and we crouched on the sand for the dead crab’s obituary photo.
Finally, there’s certain shells prized around here for their round shape and five petal-like pores. Most folks consider them beautiful. I looked for one this week along the beach, but only broken chips remained. Once, several years back, hundreds of live ones blew in along the Gulf. The live ones aren’t so beautiful, or so people will say. They’re gray and covered with a velvety skin of movable spines. After they die, the shell remains and bleaches white. Beachcombers collect them, prize them, carefully protect them against breaking. Here’s one my folks have here in the condo:
I think an admirable goal is to allow our gaze to expand until we can view beauty in mud, in thickets, in broken shells, in brown seaweed, in broken lives. Let’s keep trying, shall we?