My last post was about beauty, about my love of beauty and about how I have shirked away from embracing that love of beauty for a long time.
In that post, I was writing mostly about beauty in our environments — the beauty in our midst.
But as I was writing it, I couldn’t help but think about how odd it was to write about beauty without mentioning the kind of beauty we women tend to think more about (whether we want to or not): being beautiful. Beautifying ourselves. Putting time and energy into looking beautiful.
What about when loving beauty, and seeking to create it, spills over into seeking to create in in ourselves? Is that healthy? How much do I want to be beautiful, and am I okay with that wanting too?
My personal answer is: Taos. This summer I was in Taos, on Jen Louden’s writing retreat, with about 30 other wonderful women writers. I was with the sun, with the dirt, with my own creativity, and with people whom I felt supported by. A few days in, I started noticing, I felt beautiful. I’d look in the mirror before heading over to dinner each night, and feel that what I saw was unique, and striking, and beautiful.
In that setting, it was fun, light fun, to put on a great scarf and some earrings in colors that I loved. Other than that, I didn’t think about my appearance too much. No wishing this or that were different. No worries about body size. No stressing in uncomfortable clothes.
The kind of beauty I sought, and created, and appreciated in myself out there in desert is a very different kind of beauty than what most women have on their minds every day. But it’s the real beauty, because of this:
Despite what the magazine images would tell us, beauty is itself chaotic, organic, messy, vibrant, and alive. Just like life. Real beauty is all of that. That is the opposite of how it has been defined by contemporary culture: measurable, comparable, controlled and controllable, manufactured.
Every woman, when she is alive in herself, alive to her life, alive in honesty about her truth and lit by passion for what sparks her passion, is beautiful. She just is. And she is beautiful in way that speaks to the very vitality and uncontrollable-ness of the life force itself, of the earth.
In a culture that is not at home with women’s power, is it any wonder that we’ve turned our back on, or even forgot about, that kind of beauty? Is it any wonder that we’ve replaced it with ideas about beauty that instead leave most women feeling powerless in the world? Like they don’t measure up?
Karen Walrond has shown all this, and more, so beautifully here.
I feel beautiful not when I most resemble the women in the magazines, but when I am in an environment where I can most be me. When I am with people I feel like get me. When I am in a space that speaks to my soul. When I sit in a circle with people who inspire me. When I do the things I love to do. When I’m in that place, my simple adornments — a beautiful scarf, the right pair of earrings, feel incredibly luxurious to me, and I can see my beauty in the mirror— in a way that I don’t when I am put myself in environments that objectify beauty- whether the mall or a bar where the men are comparing the women’s bodies in their conversation.
Sometimes I walk around the streets and just try to see people through the eyes of whatever it is that created us. Perhaps that sounds a little woo-woo, or grandiose. But I recommend it. I switch out of the silly standards our world has given us about what is beautiful and what is not, and look at the faces passing me on the street from a different perspective — from a more distant, compassionate perspective of some energy that made us and that loves us.
What I see then is that each face is incredibly beautiful, so beautiful it makes my heart break. Each face is noble. Each face is searching. Each face is perfect. Each face is graced.
Yours is too. Beauty.