What constitutes a beautiful day? The classic example is a sunny, 72 degrees, light breeze in early summer, sapphire-blue sky with a slight dusting of clouds. Perhaps add a snow-topped mountain in the background, reflected by an even bluer lake in the foreground, with a promise of water games, beach-combing, and relaxing with a cool drink, good friends, and barbeque. Sounds pretty great, right?
What about that beautiful day spent inside, on the couch, curled up with family (or alone) watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time, with nowhere you have to be until tomorrow, and nothing you have to do other than just ENJOY this scene again, because it always makes you laugh, or cry, or gives you goosebumps.
For me, both scenarios are equally enticing, depending on my mood, energy, and situation. There are a myriad of other situations, too, that can count as a “beautiful day” for me … reading a book on a covered porch during a warm spring rain, or a day at the incomparably beautiful Wrigley Field, or the first snowfall of winter, or an evening of fireworks with friends on the Fourth of July. Each situation is different, and it isn’t a stretch to see how they are all considered “beautiful.” I think that the key to really enjoying beauty is to not limit yourself to just one definition of it. Once we expand our definition of beauty to include not just “pretty” or “pleasing to look at” but also “excellence” and “appreciation,” the potential for finding your beauty is almost limitless.
I always try to look to look past the obvious and find the buried beauty in the world around me. Not just to look, but to see, absorb, and appreciate beauty and excellence in non-traditional examples. Madonna says, “Beauty’s where you find it.” Let’s take that a bit further, and understand that what each of us appreciates as beauty will be infinitely different for the next person. And with our expanded definition of beauty, we open our criteria even wider. Rather than just something you see, ALL our senses can be open to respond to a thing of excellence as if it were a masterpiece/work of art. And beauty can be found in ANYTHING … Math equations. Athletic prowess. Lemon curd on toast. Scientific breakthroughs. The sound your sleeping child makes when they breathe. A majestic mining structure in the mountains of Wyoming. The point is that there are so many variations, so many things to choose from, that finding just a little bit of beauty each day should be easy. But often, it is not.
We live in a world that rushes from one thing to the next in an ever-increasing frenzy. We do ourselves a disservice when we don’t pause for just that brief moment and savor something we find to be beautiful. These moments come and go so quickly, they can be gone before we realize it. Here are a few things that I have found help me to recognize beauty and excellence on a daily basis:
Notice, but don’t compare your beauty and/or excellence to others. We can appreciate someone else’s photos on Facebook of their day at the lake with family … but don’t let that detract from your enjoyment of an afternoon at the movies by yourself. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” says Theodore Roosevelt, a man who took the act of preservation of beauty so seriously that he created our National Forest Service. Someone else’s beautiful new diamond jewelry does not diminish your enjoyment of the bead-and-elastic bracelet you just finished making with your toddler.
Think outside the beauty box. Whether it is professional photography or professional wrestling … if you like it, and it makes you happy, savor the beauty you find in it. I personally think baseball is a beautiful sport, and have found myself defending it against the argument that it is slow and boring. But to me it is a game of precision and detail, with sparkling defense and timely hitting, played on an aesthetically pleasing green field of grass, usually under a summer sun. Look for ways to recognize the beauty in things that aren’t traditionally considered beautiful.
Take the smallest bits of beauty and expand them. Recognizing “tiny beauties” all around can enhance an entire day. For example, I personally love sunshine on a new manicure when I am driving my car – I absolutely love the way perfectly painted fingernails look as they rest lightly on the steering wheel. Simple, I know … but it makes me disproportionally happy, considering the tiny amount of effort it takes to get my nails done, and then just drive my car. The pleasure far outweighs the effort.
Look around you right now … is there something beautiful nearby? Is there something that you haven’t looked at or appreciated in a long time, like a photo of a loved one on your desk, or a plant that you water but don’t talk to? Take that moment, today and in the days going forward, to see/feel/experience that beauty, and appreciate the impact it has on your life. Also be sure to appreciate excellence – an A+ on a homework assignment, or a perfectly executed cartwheel – the same way you would a sun-filled lake-and-mountain scene. By broadening your beauty horizons, the opportunities for you to find something to savor are endless.