Beauty Explains Nothing

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sunset, friday night

“Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still / it explains nothing.”

—Mary Oliver, “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” from Felicity

These lines caught me immediately.  I’ve been rolling them around on my tongue for days, though part of me wants to erase the second half and still, it explains nothing.  Until this morning, I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, I wanted these words gone, except I didn’t understand what she meant; I wanted to say back, yes, beauty can explain everything.

And then this morning, I read this from Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Sit

“If you ask a child, ‘Why are you eating chocolate?’ The child would likely answer, ‘Because I like it.’  There’s no purpose in eating the chocolate.  Suppose you climb a hill and stand on top to look around.  You might feel quite happy standing on the hill.  There’s not a reason for doing it.  Sit in order to sit.  Stand in order to stand.  There is no goal or aim in sitting.  Do it because it makes you happy.”

There is no purpose.  There is no goal or aim.  Do it because it makes you happy.  And yet, beneath this is the understanding that the meaning is in the mindfulness.  That beauty or action alone explains nothing.  That they are not, in fact, trying to explain anything anyway.

Amidst the industry and utility of this world, I easily forget the simplicity of being.

I forget that we aren’t meant to explain so much as to experience.

Beauty has its way of catching us and bringing us into presence.  Beauty has its way of bringing us beyond the explanation and into the heart of experience.  And so beauty has no duty to explain.  And neither do I, except to tell you what I’ve learned:

Beneath beauty is breath.

You don’t have to explain anything.  Just breathe.  Do it because it makes you happy.

No Mud, No Lotus

No Mud,No Lotus

Years ago, sitting cross-legged in a yoga class, my teacher spoke about the muck on the bottom of the pond.  How the muck is home to the roots.  How it gives birth to the lotus.  I sat there, grounding my sacrum to the floor, strengthening my spine, feeling the opening at the crown of my head, and breathed in the lesson.  In that moment, the relationship between the mud and the lotus was so clear.  You’d think as a farmer I’d never forget it.

But I do forget it.  Despite the compost we shovel on our field each year, despite the fact that my livelihood depends on manure, I forget the balance.  I have to re-learn it each spring.

The month of March churned up the internal muck, and I caught myself there, in the opaque sludge of worry, in the heavy suction of resistance.  It took weeks to remember that pushing down to find grounding is futile in the muck.  It took weeks to remember how to trust in letting go.  How to trust in the mud.

Eventually, movement returned.  I don’t know if it was external validation or the wind bringing in warm air and clear skies, or the exhaustion of trying so hard that finally brought me to letting go, but I’m shifting into spring and feel the shoots starting to rise from the murky base.

Somewhere in all of it, I remembered sitting in that yoga class, remembered the space that filled my body as I breathed from the flower down to the roots, remembered that this cycle has spun through me before.  And I’ve woken up into trust, into space, into abundance.

I’ve woken up.

No mud, no lotus, Thich Nhat Hanh said, and I remember that the pond, too, sleeps and must wake each spring.  That the lotus, too, must bloom anew each year.