The eye of the beholder

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New project on the horizon this week. In addition to riding my bicycle everywhere I go – including the grocery store (even if that means criss – crossing the straps of a faded woven cotton bag full of groceries across my throat to ride home) and to my sunrise yoga, the energy isn’t being sapped out quickly enough, so I’m on a mission. I woke up early and headed out for a three mike bike ride for the first yoga class this morning with more miles of biking in between. Luckily the sun drifted behind the clouds and the heavy cover it created was at such an opportune moment while I stretched skyward and planted my heel firmly toward my mat – sweat beads dripping into my left eye and burning until I wiped it clear – feeling my nonsunblocked skin squelching in the heat. Typically one wouldn’t find the cloud cover over the sun as beautiful as I did for the one hour it graciously cowered – but I did.

I started my new book today while lounging at the pool and I did some ‘people watching’ as my mom would call it. I’m usually oblivious to things like that – what others are up to around me until it’s pointed out. The most critical eyes open at the beach when everyone is forced to bare all but their souls poolside. Sizes and shapes in every variety clad in more modest suits and brilliant coverups to the downright teensiest. I was late in getting to the club today and forced to sit in the sun. Not to be rattled on this vacation I was prepared: my newly minted fouta, big button down cover up, huge sunglasses that kept slipping down the bridge of my nose, and my umbrella hat bent into a shape that it pretty much covered the entire top of my torso. My daughter decked out in a new bikini – the kind I feel I’ve always overpaid for because even when it’s on clearance for $35 how can it possibly cost that much when the fraction of fabric yardage in its minuscule volume is about 12 cents?

In her perfectly fitted suit, she sat on the sand waiting for the surf to barely cover her legs rolling in. Her long dark hair fell to her waist as she slouched and rolled over at the shore. She was turning pink, despite my repeated reminders to cover up and wear sunscreen. The speckled melanin in her skin was dotted and flecked with golden grains of sand – her straight hair took on the Mr. Hyde ‘other personality’ and the highlights of red showed more prominently than usual as the beach air salted her hair and sunned her skin. I was tempted to call out to her as I watched to ‘come out of the sun’ and I even may have, but my voice is always lost to the power of the ocean’s thunder. I thought about being a teenager myself in what seemed like finished in the blink of an eye. I’d chosen similar suits that I’d never admit wearing to her. At that time I thought that was beautiful, as she does now, even though it’s no longer my cup of tea anymore than my layers and cover ups are hers.

She was lovely sitting in the water under the sun – mostly the idea of being so young and being completely comfortable in her skin is what made me think so – not just what I judged in appearance alone.

Reflecting on the day, I thought of other snapshots that were beautiful – not in the same conventions that most people would find special – but trying to find something beautiful because there was more below the surface – beauty in the eye of the beholder.

Here’s my list for today:

1. My daughter

2. At lunchtime, the gentleman who took our order was from Bulgaria. He wrote everything down and was ready to leave before my husband, who’d been sitting quietly said, “Bulgarian cheese.” I did a double take. What was he talking about? The waiter knew and his face lit up at my husband’s half comment/inquiry. He went on to describe the cheese in Bulgaria as being like no other – in great detail and pride for the cuisine of his homeland. Making that moment – a quick connection with a stranger – allowing him the pleasure to share.

3. Biking back after the beach around 5:00 and seeing a long shadow cast to my left of myself on my bicycle. Freedom

3. Riding home, with a sandy four year old friend on my lap, the wind whipping around us after a sandstorm had blown sand grains into our bare legs like shards of glass, I carefully shielded her glittering eyes from the brittle ends of her hair blowing around her face, oblivious to my own unclipped bangs, when she did her best to fix my hair with chubby little hands tucking my hair back. That innocent moment with a little one where they learn compassion and outstretching their hand without being asked.

This week I’m looking for the beauty in the unexpected and going beyond skin deep. It’s easy to spot something beautiful like the image at the top of my post that can be appreciated by most, but my challenge is to keep judgmental eyes closed and look for more.

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