I took my dog on a walk the other evening, and it was the perfect weather. The kind where it’s not too cold, but not too hot to wear a jacket; when the air isn’t humid, but it’s not too crisp either—it’s just right.
As we reached the end of our walk, I turned around to look at the sky. There was no sunset glowing orange and pink, no rainbow on the horizon, just a light blue sky fading into golden hour above the trees.
I am an eternal optimist, so maybe I was only admiring the pretty view like I typically would. But I stayed looking at that sky for just a beat longer than usual, and it made me think about how easy it is to recognize beauty in places we’re not used to, but it’s harder to recognize it in something you see everyday. It’s the way we see a sunset on a drive home and think, “wow that’s pretty,” but subliminally we’d consider it insignificant if it was compared to something new.
I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty lately, particularly in terms of art, and how similar to the sky that evening, we have to really take it in to appreciate it. When I was younger, I visited museums and went to see live ballet performances—something I love, but back then never fully appreciated. I often watched half distracted, thinking once again, “wow that’s pretty.” But until I began to actually focus on what was right in front of me, it remained like background noise, filling up space but never feeling fulfilling.
Sometime in the last five years though, this has completely changed for me. Maybe it’s just growing up, maybe it’s gaining life experience—who knows. But when I take a look around, I realize there’s beauty in just about everything, just about everywhere.
I’m often overwhelmed by how many simple beauties fill the spaces around us, yet often go unnoticed. I see it in the dewy mornings on my drives to work and I see it in the artwork that’s been hanging next to my bed for months now. I watch new movies and read new books in an attempt to absorb the good.
In order to consciously accept something as “beautiful,” we have to remind ourselves to savor it. It’s like how many of us impulsively take out our phones to capture a moment rather than truly taking it in. I often think of my experience seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris and how it wasn’t the painting that struck me; it was the crowd pushing forward with their cell phones outstretched. I wonder how many of them can actually recall the painting.
Beauty requires something on our part—concentration, a closer look, or just acknowledgement altogether.
We have a choice when it comes down to our surroundings. We can merely look at things from a surface level, be content, and choose to leave it at that. Art and looking at beautiful things isn’t necessary. Life can carry on just fine without it. But I’d argue that humans are wired to create in order to make life feel special, so we need to recognize these non-essential necessities as essential.
Don’t get the impression that I only see the beauty in life and disregard all the atrocities. Unfortunately those will always exist. Nothing is perfect by any means, but I think making the choice to notice subtle moments when things are really okay—and when we look more closely, beautiful—helps give life a meaning that can’t be found without art.