2015-02-17

Beauty... or finally being man enough to admit I can see it.

Beauty, or aesthetic appreciation is most often talked about as a thing outside of us.  We see, hear, taste, touch or smell something and it evokes a pleasing, positive response.  We so often talk of beauty as 'that thing over there'.  It seems we get stuck on responding because of beauty.  I couldn't help but notice this in the films (which were excellent).  

Let me explain:

A friend and I took a motorcycle ride shortly after graduating from high school.  We packed up, left Eau Claire and headed North to Superior where we took a left....and kept on going.  We rode and camped to and through Glacier National, Yellowstone and down to a dry, dusty, tiny place called Lovell Wyoming where we met with my friends brother who was interning there for his Hydro-geology degree. After visiting, we headed back East toward home by way of the Big Horn Mountains.

We reached a place called Medicine Wheel, and there, though I did not know it until many years later, I first experienced beauty.  The Medicine Wheel is a Native American construct consisting of some stones.  Each stone is placed exactly at a point on the compass.  Amazing...  One can look to the South East and see until one can't see any more from Medicine Wheel.  There is a weather radar station some two hundred feet or so from the rock formation.  It is about the only thing one can see that is not part of nature.  Rather a blight in that spot, but easy enough to ignore if one puts tier mind to it.

My friend turned and walked a ways to the east examining some rock formations or some such.  I turned and meandered North and was amazed.  A seemingly endless glade of grass that all grew to the same height interspersed with tiny blue flowers and craggy old boulders the size of a semi descended away to disappear in the distance in front of the next far away range of old mountain tops.

I walked a ways down the glade, found a place to sit on a rock and lit a smoke and just stared.  I am not sure how long I was there.  It seemed like a long time, and when I stopped gazing I realized I was weeping.  A 19 year old man sitting on the top of a mountain weeping.  Not sobbing, not crying, just weeping.  When I realized this I quickly stopped, and I recall shaking my head thinking I was nuts, wiped my eyes and headed back to the bike.  We rode on.

Years later, shortly after my Aunt died and I suddenly found I was responsible for the farm that I had spent my summers on from the time I was 11 until I turned 17, I took a walk out to the North pasture.  I was 47 years old at the time.  The problems of probate, not knowing how to run a farm, the upcoming auction, and my job were crushing.  I went to the North pasture to turn my head off.  

As I walked along, I recalled hiking the valleys of the pasture down to Pigeon Creek where I would fish or just wade.  I found a spot and sat down and just looked.  After a while, for the second time in my life, I found myself weeping.  This time I knew why.  I was a part of that place.  The beauty is in me too.  I finally understood after more than 30 years what happened up at Medicine Wheel.  I had found beauty and was a part of it.



I think there is nothing wrong with examining and appreciating beauty we find outside ourselves.  But when Aldo Leopold talked about beauty, I think he meant us to be a part of it, and know that we are a part of it.

Maybe I am just nuts like I surmised way back then up on that glade.  But I don't really think so.