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.
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.