As a writer, I enjoy the process of playing with words to create beauty. I write Haiku poetry and prose that I don’t typically share widely. In exploring my love of writing and hesitancy to share, I recently stumbled across Julia McCutchen’s website. She is an intuitive coach, mentor, and author with a focus on conscious writing, living, and leadership. A favorite quote of mine by Rumi is: Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. About this Rumi quote Julia says: Fundamentally for me this is a lyrical invitation to discover your true calling (‘the beauty we love’) and express that authentically in the world (‘be what we do’). The “hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground” serves as a reminder of the myriad options for reflecting and sharing your unique gifts in all areas of your life. Reflecting on her words, I imagine that writing is indeed part of my true calling; a way to share beauty; a way to feel thankful and connected.
And so, I have chosen to reflect on “Beauty” as my “B” word in the wellness alphabet for lots of reasons. First and foremost is that I just love all things beautiful. I find beauty in music, art, people, animals, poetry, stars, small acts of kindness, food, dance, and so many other things. I can think of nothing more beautiful than what nature provides. Walking in the forest, listening to a babbling river, inhaling the scent of downed aspen leaves in autumn, arranging flowers in a vase, or gazing at a starlit sky are activities that I find deeply calming. Beyond the calm that nature’s beauty provides, is a sense of being connected to the larger design; of being part of all of it.
Beauty can offer a path to wellness. I’m not talking about the superficial beauty seen in glossy, air brushed magazine photos. I’m talking about the beauty way as described in the Navajo culture. Patricia Anne Davis, MA tells us that: “Walking In Beauty” or “Hozho Naasha” means “natural order.” The term “natural order” is temporal time, cardinal directions, cycles of seasons correlated with principles placed in the four cardinal directions for a life journey. I love this concept of living life in tune with the seasons and cycles of our natural world. To this end, I try to hold beauty and grace as allies to invoke when I am worried or struggling with a challenge. I think of these allies as helpful twins. The Latin root meaning of “grace” is “thankful.” If I look for beauty in a difficult circumstance, I usually end up feeling thankful for something, thus, grace arrives. I have seen this happen time and again while supporting people who are seriously ill, in cancer treatment, or in hospice care. Beauty and grace can be present, even in decline and even in death.
Very recently it was an honor to visit my friend, Clarence, during his hospice time. A larger-than-life musician and entertainer for the Williams Grand Canyon Railway, Clarence was beloved by many friends and family members. As a Navajo, he used to grouse in a good-natured way about being the only Indian among all those cowboy singers on the train. His wife, Kat, worked diligently during his eleven weeks in hospice-at-home to provide a calm, clear space for him to receive his family and friends; no easy task during a pandemic. When I entered the home to visit Clarence, I could feel and see the beauty. There were flowers, native flute music playing softly, holiday lights twinkling, and the smells of pine and sage. A small laughing Buddha was quietly overseeing the visit. Our conversations meandered over a sweeping landscape of dusty memories, life-changing journeys, unexpected angels, funny vignettes, and bittersweet tears. He graced me with a prayer in his first language; something I have always cherished whether spoken at my dinner table or in ceremonies past. Even in the face of his body’s decline, there was beauty. That is what remains.
I have been humbled many times by the beauty I witness in friends who face physical decline and the end of life. While Clarence’s journey is now complete, my gratitude will continue for his and Kat’s willingness to allow my presence during such an intimate and personal time. Another beautiful gift in this circumstance was that upon his doctor’s recommendation, Clarence chose to have a virtual wake while he was still living. It is called “An Awake for Clarence” on the Facebook platform. He derived great pleasure from the messages, pictures, songs, and stories shared there. He was grateful and uplifted by those messages in his final days. His hospice care team believe that this kind of legacy-sharing while a person is still living is something that would bring peace and comfort to others as well. I think the living wake brought a sense of wellness and connection to my friend. This was a gift of both beauty and grace to pave the way for his peaceful passage.
In closing, I am so grateful to be able to write that “B” is for “Beauty” and to share it here. I hope you will consider the gift of taking beauty into your day, and into situations that are difficult or challenging; even situations where a dear one is declining or nearing the end of life. Cultivating this is a practice. If you begin with the intention to practice every day in some small way, it can enhance your wellness and the feelings of connection to your loved ones, and to something larger than yourself. One way to help you remember to practice is to write about beauty in a journal. Make a note each day about something you saw as beautiful, something that evokes a sense of connection, wellness, gratitude, or grace. May you all walk in beauty this and every day.