Beauty – Is it only in the EYE of the beholder?

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As a person who responds primarily to the visual, I see beauty everywhere. That’s easy. It’s the sunlight coming through the spores on a patch of moss.

A painting by Diebenkorn, a photograph by Ansel Adams. A decaying piece of birch bark on the forest floor (I was going to talk about the beauty of decay, but my friend Kevin McCamant beat me to it).

But hearing beauty?—well, that’s easy, too. The opening strains of Mendelsohn’s Octet, the closing chords of “Hey Jude.” The first song of the season from the white-throated sparrow, a chorus of spring peepers, the wail of a faraway train passing in the dark of night.

Smell? Or rather, scent. (Scents are beautiful; smells—not so much.) The first whiff of the ocean as you cross the bridge into Maine, especially if it’s low tide. The waft of her perfume as your mother leans over to give you a good night kiss before going out for the evening. Freshly mown hay on a hot summer afternoon.

Now it gets trickier. Touch. Does a touch feel beautiful, or does it feel tender, soothing, warm, soft? Can touch be beautiful? Do we say, “this feels beautiful?” Is it the caress of a lover, the body sliding into clear cool water, the feel of a dog’s warm head under a crippled elderly hand? Thick warm socks on a cold morning—that’s a beautiful feeling.

Here’s one Josie didn’t ask about in the video: Taste. Do we talk about food as tasting beautiful? Delicious, sweet, comforting—yes beautiful: Macaroni and cheese; good strong coffee thick with cream; a ripe tomato still warm from the sun.

What I end up with is this: I think it is the magic in the perception of things that makes them beautiful. Ice skating alone on a startling pink sunrise, reflected on the surface of a pond. The gentle touch of a dragonfly as it lands on your bare shoulder. The surprising taste of chunky salt in a bar of dark chocolate.  It’s the little sensory surprise, the little gasp “oh!” that makes something beautiful.

Now the question is, how do you capture that gasp?

-Dianna Noyes ’80
Publications Coordinator & Graphic Designer

One Response to “Beauty – Is it only in the EYE of the beholder?”

  1. lucy

    Every word of this post is beautiful — I can see, hear, smell, taste, feel and envision it all.