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Posts tagged ‘Beauty’

Happiness is My Choice, 13

Waves Lapping on the Shore, ©Batya7, JustHavingFun

Writing this piece, on the eve of Passover, is the last thing most Jews would think is important. As Jewish holidays commence after sundown, the daylight hours before the Passover seder are easily the busiest for many Jews. The house has been searched top to bottom for chametz (i.e., leavened products). Ordinary year-round utensils are stored away and new ones designated for Passover use have been brought out. The whole house is topsy turvy. A yearly chaos, hated yet beloved.

Many preparations need to be performed during the day before the seder: calling friends and family to wish them a happy holiday, making sure the children have matching socks, last minute purchases because yet another guest is coming. And the cooking!

I used to spend the entire day before the seder cooking and preparing. I felt like an artist, carefully selecting my ingredients like colors, figuring quantities like determining to use a fine paintbrush or a trowel. My palate consisted of chicken and vegetables for the golden soup, and tan matzah balls to accompany it. Romaine lettuce provided the green. Red was the beef tongue I prepared, a delicacy saved for twice a year. Wine and grape juice provided rich burgundy and purple colors.

All of the busy-ness gave me so much pleasure. Then sunset would fall and I’d light my holiday candles, singing the ancient blessing. The men would come home from synagogue about an hour later, and we’d start the seder. The children would participate, the youngest saying the mah nishtanah. We’d all groan about the amount of food to eat at midnight and the late hour the seder would finish at. Somebody would retire to the sofa and fall asleep, inevitably. Strangely, I’d look forward to the washing up ritual, making sure the kitchen was in order for the next day’s festive noon meal, although ordinarily I dislike cleanup. I was very much “in the present” at those times in the past, not blindly participating in the ritual, but appreciating the ability to do what I was doing.

Wavelets, © Batya7, JustHavingFun

I’m not preparing a seder this year. I will be a guest. I will not have the same pleasures as previous years; I expect I will have new pleasures. I can enjoy another’s family customs and make new memories. I can be in the moment yet feel the echoes of years past lap against my mind like wavelets upon the shore.

I could choose to dwell on what I don’t have—but rather, I choose to enjoy what the present provides. If I live in the negative shoals I will only bring sorrow and misery to my life. I choose happiness, being present in the current day. I choose to open my eyes to the beauty that is every day and grab at the chances for being open to miracles. For isn’t each day a new miracle?

Redemption is near. Until then, I choose happiness.

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Autumn Beauty

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east.

W. 187th Street stairs, looking east. © JustHavingFun

The autumn colors sing to my soul! I am certain this peek into the Creator’s paintbox carries me through the gray winter. It feels like fall came late this year. But while last week the temperatures were in the 40s, today it’s expected to hit 75. Crazy! I broke out my jacket, though, and put my sandals under the bed. The toes are getting cold so I know the oppressive heat is over. Gearing up now for the frigid winter seems more real day by day.

Speaking of crazy, there’s a certain pleasant vibration in my head that’s caused by the look of yellow maple leaves against rain-darkened tree trunks on a gloomy day. It puts me in mind of a long ago leisurely drive in the country near Poughkeepsie.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches.

Brilliant gold maple leaves against dark branches. © JustHavingFun

The day started off as if it had a headache. First the sun came out, then it ducked behind clouds. A wind blew up and fallen leaves swirled like dancers. The sun’s rays through the clouds highlighted odd sights off to the side of the road: a patch of late-blooming chrysanthemums, a kitschy mailbox, a faded American flag left over from July 4th, nude fields, homes festooned with carved pumpkins. I drove over the crest of a hill and lo, ahead of me, was a spectacular stand of maple trees limned against the gray, brooding sky—a vision so powerful so as to remain with me these thirty-some years!

Enjoy the autumn. Savor the crunch of leaves underfoot. Cherish the colors. Memorize the scents. This may be your own dramatic memory in thirty years!

Hidden Gems

Man-made crystal specimen

This specimen is man-made but oh, what glory! © JustHavingFun

Why would crystals like these exist deep inside the earth? Hidden, secret, rare… perfect. I can appreciate them on so many levels. Their beauty is undisputed; they delight the eye. Their chemistry is exquisite; they reveal the order of the universe.

Red stones in the corundum family are rubies, and anything else is a sapphire. While pure corundum can be colorless, sapphires might be blue, green, yellow, orange, pink, purple or even show a six-rayed star. Only a tiny atomic change, the inclusion of the element chromium, makes a deep blue sapphire become a red ruby.

Carbon lacks the sparkle of diamonds. Coal. Graphite. Soot. Yet tons of pressure and kilocalories of heat create diamonds, harder than any other natural rock or mineral. Quartz crystals emerge as gems (amethyst and topaz) or captivate us as clear crystal spears. People carve and polish it into a crystal orb and divine the past and future in its depths.

The hardest carbon is diamond. Science explains its allure: the high refractive index allows light to bounce around within the cut and polished stone and sparkle in myriad colors as no other gemstone.  De Beers coined the phrase “A Diamond Is Forever” in 1947. They created a lust for diamond engagement rings like never before in history.

But isn’t a diamond just a rock?

Minerals

Minerals” by Eric Hunt, used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why are some crystals needle-like and others cubic? Why are some embedded in volcanic rock and others, geodes, inside hollow nodules? Why are opals iridescent yet moonstones glow? Knowing the chemistry explains some details but it doesn’t explain my captivation. Wonders beyond wonders.

These gifts from on High can remind us of the Order in the universe. Things don’t happen randomly. These wonders were emplaced for us to find, study, and rejoice in.

The lessons I glean from my fascination with gems, crystals, and mineral specimens parallel my determination to live a life of happiness:

* Looking within hidden places for treasure just might reveal some.
* Adopting minute changes can make grand differences.
* Embrace everlasting truths for what we value can be capricious and trendy (they are just rocks, after all).
* Enjoy the beauty and sparkle while you can.

Snow on the Fence

Fence Decorated with Snow

Fence Decorated with Snow

Snow adorns the fence and it is transformed into otherworldly lace.  Flake clusters sit on the bottoms of the iron diamonds, amassing loftiness. Were I to return in five minutes, the fence would be different, some blocks filled in, others oddly bare. The pattern relies on whimsy; the air will sculpt and push and cajole the icy diamonds so they land capriciously. Random beauty like this makes me smile and revel in the rarity as flakes pelt my face. I love this!

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