Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Beauty Slays Me

I am just checking in briefly to say that I am okay and enjoying my break from blogging. My new computer arrived three days ago and I've been busy getting it set up and getting to know my way around the new digs. The new computer with its speed and great memory capacity gives me a sense of freedom, and I've been running with that.

However, all is not perfect. I had fooled myself into thinking I was going to be able to run with my book as soon as all responsibilities were over at work, but that hasn't been the case. What I have ended up doing is reading a lot of poetry and going through my notes to shape poems of my own which I hope, in turn, will point me toward a narrative. I was so pleased with the poems I wrote that I sent two to little magazines for consideration.

Enough of that, though. I want to write something about beauty.

On the night of May 8th, after I'd done my last blog entry for a while, I watched the film Harold and Maude again. I've seen this film many times and at different points in my life. Harold and Maude is about an unlikely romance. If you've never seen Harold and Maude, then you should, and that's all I'll say about that.

Watching Harold and Maude on May 8, I noticed what Maude says about beauty, and I was struck suddenly by how easy it is lose our ability to recognize beauty. It is so easy to become blunted.

In Harold and Maude, Maude watches seagulls with Harold. Watching the gulls, Maude tells Harold of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish soldier wrongfully incarcerated on Devil's Island who as a child felt amazement when he first encountered what he thought were the most fantastical birds. Later, Maude says, Dreyfus realized the birds he'd thought were so magical were "only seagulls."

I remember as a child seeing what I thought were the most fantastical flowers. They were orange and tropical and nearly as tall as I was. I told my mother I thought the flowers were pretty (she loved flowers) and she said they were only daylilies, a very common flower which she thought of as nothing more than a weed. I remember the feeling of disappointment that shot through my chest, a feeling that I was being torn apart. Through the years, I've noticed that feeling and have come to associate with it the encroachment of banality, which I want to fight.

This is the challenge of life: to keep one's initial wonderment and ability to see the beauty around us.

I think this was part of my reason for extricating myself from the Internet for a time. I'm not finished with my quest yet to rediscover wonderment and beauty.

Don't you just long to be slain by beauty?

I'll close with a poem about beauty written by Chaucer. Let's say I am reading it tonight and thinking of the "You" in the poem as a muse. What do you look for in a muse? If my muse is a person, I look for one who is courageous, strong, and kind. And one who can slay me with his or her beauty, one who can help me to see beauty, wherever it resides:

Rondel of Merciless Beauty

Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Only your word will heal the injury
To my hurt heart, while yet the wound is clean -
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene.

Upon my word, I tell you faithfully
Through life and after death you are my queen;
For with my death the whole truth shall be seen.
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Geoffrey Chaucer


Cynthia said...

Well, you certainly know how to make an entrance from your break. This is an incredible entry. This entry is why I read blogs. If you have captured this awareness of beauty, this hope for ruthless beauty in your poetry, it will bowl over anyone you sent it to. Enjoy your new computer. Enjoy sorting out your poetry and your narrative. You've been in my thoughts, and I hope that beauty slays you every day.

ggw07 said...

Almost bursting- To discover a favorite, "Harold and Maude," Dreyfus (See the film "Life of Emile Zola" if you haven't) and Chaucer plus your mother and you amid the lilies! I'm on to new work as well- To qualities you mention in a muse I would add- Truth- If a muse is human- With time a muse can be reborn- best to find the muse within- My inner mantra- "Beauty is truth, truth beauty - that is all, Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." John Keats
Take chances- A delightful summer! Gretchen

Vicky said...

My dear, welcome back!

My muse would be all you wish for in yours, but I would rephrase "kind" and write "compassionate." That is essential in my eyes. For what is life or art or anything without compassion?

"Don't you just long to be slain by beauty?" - yes, oh yes. The moments when something is so beautiful that I can't breathe - a view, a thought, a physical sensation. What a blessing. It's like a little death and re-birth into a new state.

So happy to see you - and all the best with the new work - enjoy the journey,

Love, Vicky xx

dreaminglily said...

Nice to hear you're doing well. Miss you being around but writing is so very important.

I loved this entry. It's so true. We lose our sense of beauty, we raise our standards to highs that are just silly. It's how I think of models and actresses. All woman are supposed to "fit the mold" and I've been working really hard the past few years to reprogram myself. That's not the ONLY beauty. It's hard to learn that all over again. My mother was so obsessed with her weight and being thing growing up that it had a huge effect on me. My view of beautiful women is smeared. (Men of all types, however, I find handsome.)

You got me thinking lol This is what I missed about your entries. You always make me think.


Tom said...

When speaking of beauty, I am reminded of when I was a child and it seemed that everything new was beautiful. The flowers, the trees, the prancing animals -- it all seemed so magical. Then as age crept upon me, I slowly became intellectual and cynical. Banality encroached upon me: a dullness which blotted out all that was lovely. Then a woman's eyes enrapured me one fateful day, and beauty was reborn in my consciousness. I appreciate it more after having lost the ability to percieve it for so long. The Chaucer poem really hit the bullseye. Now I realize that I am often slain by beauty, and I happily die a thousand deaths each day.

ckays1967 said...

This I will ponder for the rest of the weekend.

redsneakz said...

One thing that has happened to me is that my children have helped me to see all that I'd been missing - and I, in turn, always listen to them when they see something new and magical.

The magic of a cricket, or a next of gypsy moth caterpillars, or the red leaves of the crab apple tree outside my old house, or the sun.

But there are some things that they in turn don't appreciate the same way that adults do. A sunset. A perfectly temperate day. A cool breeze on a warm day. Sometimes you have to be childlike. Other times, you have to have context.

V said...

Congrats and have fun with your new `puter, Theresa.

Harold and Maude must have really affected you. A month later, you present it to us. I haven`t seen it in years.

I have to think about my absent muse and how I`d describe her. I`ll be back.

A beauty of a poem.

Judith HeartSong said...

Perfect. Thinking of you. judi

Nelle said...

I cannot that anyone would think daylillies like weeds. Here we buy them in nurseries. I personally love the pink ones and have them blooming in my yard. I love nature and I so often see beauty in the flowers, the trees and the creatures. At times it can move me to tears. I recently watched Harold and Maude again. I know a few people who consider it their favorite movie.



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"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken


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