Small Sips of Beauty

"Lillies in the Field" by Jane Halliwell Green

Here’s a special letter from Holly, in honor of Memorial Day:

Dear Readers,
A few weekends back, for Mother’s Day, my dear friend Sue asked me to participate in a service she put together called “A Liturgy of Flowers.” She sent us each a Bible verse that mentioned a flower and asked us to write a poem in response.

Here’s what I received: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29)

Here’s what I wrote:

Listen, the Lilies are Shouting
Each morning when we rise, if we’re lucky,
the lilies in all their glory shout to us, that is
if we lean over, put our ear down, listen closely
enough to hear them, to see not just their flashy
mid-day glory, opening to the hot sun,
but also their quiet, shy beauty, the light
that glows when the sun’s obscured by clouds.
May we be reminded that when our spirit flags
and doubts hover like clouds above us,
that our own beauty will shine through,
that beauty can feed us, can clothe us,
can perhaps even save us if we listen.

Because it was Mother’s Day, Sue’s prompt sent me off into remembering my mother, who first taught me to love flowers. She delighted in helping us make May Day baskets of lilies of the valley, violets, and forget-me-nots to leave on the doors of our neighbors. She filled our house with flowers from the yard: not just the expected vases of tulips in the spring, peonies in the summer, but would artfully arrange dried grasses and bittersweet— what some might call weeds—all year round. They were all beautiful to her.

In her last years, as she lost her mind to Alzheimer’s disease, my mother never lost her love of beauty. She couldn’t remember the names of anything, but my mother still knew to stop to watch the sandpipers scurry up the beach, the squirrel racing to the nearest oak, the sky blossom with color as the sun sank into the sea. In her last years, she breathed in beauty like oxygen, and I want to believe these daily sips of beauty sustained her as her logical mind departed.

What small sip of beauty did you take today? If you haven’t yet taken a sip of beauty, look around and see what object offers beauty to you in the moment. For just 15 minutes, write an ode to that thing, whatever it may be.

Or perhaps choose your own “bible verse” to inspire you: this can be a snippet of something from any text you consider sacred.

We don’t have to wait until everything settles down to spend even a few minutes a day in beauty; we can consider not just the lilies but whatever flowers we encounter each day.  We, too, can take small sips of beauty daily, then rise to the challenge to create something of beauty ourselves.

With love on this Memorial Day,

7 thoughts on “Small Sips of Beauty

  1. Thank you Holly for reminding me of May baskets! Making those construction paper cones and handles, filling them with flowers from Mom’s garden, sneaking into Miss Hartkop’s and Miss Fox’s yards and ringing their doorbells, dashing for cover where we could watch their surprise and pleasure, or in Miss Fox’s case, watching her irritation at finding nobody there — those damn kids — turn to surprise and then pleasure. So, later today I will write in response to the prompt, but I just wanted to say thanks.

    • I’m so glad to hear from someone who remembers the delight of May baskets, Harley. (We had a neighbor like Miss Fox, too! :>) I hope you’ll write MORE about these memories–as well as respond to the prompt. I wonder if May baskets are still a tradition? Thanks so much for joining our conversation!

  2. Well I spent the morning in the house puttering; I took a ride in the car downtown and spent some time in a café, writing; I moved the car before the parking ticketing fellow came by; I joined my husband for lunch at the Avocado Grill; and then came home, stopping at the mailbox to pick up the mail. And I forgot about beauty the whole time. Or perhaps not. Rather than go outside and look for the perfect tree (all of them), I will review this supposedly dry day to see if there is some beauty to be retrieved.

    There is how truly handsome my husband still is, his dark hair with the same swoop off his forehead that I remember from 52 years ago. The swoop has just a touch of the silver now, as do his eyebrows. It’s almost a shock to see him arrive in the kitchen, fresh from his morning ablutions, to attend to his coffee (a different process than my coffee) and think, what a babe. Beauty, yes, but I rarely tell him, because he gets such a smug look as he thanks me for the compliment. He reminds me then of Han Solo at the end of the first Star Wars movie telling Princess Leia, “I know,” when she says she loves him. Doesn’t-have-a-clue beauty is easier to live with.

    When I leave the house, there is a fountain outside the front door, in the brick-paved courtyard of our condominium complex. It’s one of those ubiquitous, curvy Mexican fountains, water dribbling from the top, splashing down and refracting the sunlight through two successive basins; visited by hummingbirds and the occasional perky little yellow bird. I always notice this fountain as I pass, whether I notice that I notice it or not.

    There was a buxom matronly blonde waitress, tightly bound into her white uniform, who served me diet cola while I wrote at a table in the back of a café. She looked so healthy, so big and strong. And the fellow in lederhosen and tee-shirt, as he walked by my table and I barely restrained myself from saying, “I like your outfit.” Love a man in leather.

    At lunch later, in the avocado place, three young Asian women and a tiny busy girl were lunching across the dining room, sleek black hair, slender and delicate in their flowery summer dresses. And our big-smile waitress, Southern California suntanned, with the diamond stud in her cheek — in her cheek! — who said “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome.” They all do that now.

    Another day, when my travels take me a different direction than the boulevard into town, which is lined with thrift shops, used car lots, and chain-linked, weedy half acres for sale, I will be surrounded by the landscape I still can’t get enough of since we came home to live in this latitude again. Eucalypti, palms, pepper trees, sycamores, a proliferation of cacti and succulents, and hills everywhere studded with huge rocks that look as though they were blown out of a volcano eons ago.

    Great discovery. I haven’t missed the boat if I didn’t catch the beauty, or name it beauty, at the moment it appeared. I can spend time in recollection and know what I saw, even when I didn’t think I was paying attention.

  3. What a great reminder for all of us! Love all the wonderful details, too–see how much you noticed?! Thanks so much for posting this.

  4. Ah Holly, reading this post reminds me of that lovely gathering that May day before Mother’s Day on the cliff above Port Townsend Bay. Creation is a kind of mother providing such abundance which we can choose to see or sip from the offering. Thanks for the reminder.

    • How fitting to find you here, Sue, since you were the inspiration for this post. Yes, a lovely and memorable afternoon–thank you for inviting me to be part of it and initiating this conversation about flowers, mothers and beauty!