"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in To See the World in a Grain of Sand edited by Caesar Johnson
In Wild Communion, Ruth Baetz shares some spiritual practices that she has developed to help her connect in a much deeper way with nature. Here is an excerpt on the spiritual practice of beauty.
"It's 8 A.M. and I'm standing beneath the almost-nude limbs of a Japanese maple. At my feet, the ground is carpeted with brilliant rain-slicked red leaves. I repeat a phrase I made up years ago when I wanted help staying focused in nature: 'Life force, power clear, beauty, touch me.'
"At the word beauty, the vibrant energy of the red leaves at my feet flies up and through me. I'm not used to life-force energy coming up though my feet. It's quite an amazing feeling.
"It fades until I repeat the phrase again and come to the word beauty. Yes, there's the rush. Beauty is the key that opens the door in me so I can receive what's right here all the time. I want the life's force's power and beauty to touch me — today its power is in its red color, and the magic word is beauty.
"I'm intrigued that the word beauty so consistently accesses this rush of connection. I know there is great power in naming. Is that it? Does correctly naming what's before me open me to its essence? Does naming open a level of understanding that's deeper, or create a framework that brings it to life-like touching a flame to a candle?
"One could contemplate an unlit candle from many angles, touch it with many things, but the flame brings out its true essence. Could a word be like that? Is that the power of poetry, of chanting, of writing?
"Everywhere I stroll I say, 'Hello, beauty,' or 'You're magnificent, beauty.' Each time there is a rush of recognition and delight.
"I walk on a carpet of gold witch hazel leaves, breathing in the sweet scent of the tree's strange spidery flowers. I put my face into a branch full of red maple leaves and kiss one. I study an intricately curled brown leaf hanging limply on a peach maple tree.
"I walk into the arms of my favorite bright yellow tree. 'Hello, beauty. I know you're fleeting in my life. I know as a human animal with limited capacities I can't hold you, but thank you for being here today.' "
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"Beauty saves. Beauty heals. Beauty motivates. Beauty unites. Beauty returns us to our origins, and here lies the ultimate act of saving, of healing, of overcoming dualism. Beauty allows us to forget the pain and dwell on the joy."
— Matthew Fox in Original Blessing
To Practice This Thought: Describe the most surprisingly beautiful thing you have seen today.