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It’s Not Far: On Finding Beauty All Around Us

Editor’s note: Every week, I’ve been running a series of posts called Savor Sunday. This is a guest post from Caroline McGraw of A Wish Come Clear

Last night I dreamt that I was a passenger in a car driving slowly up a familiar road. The scene felt comfortable and ordinary, when suddenly, it changed. All around me was…paradise. The environment became lush, remote and idyllic. Alongside the road grew a myriad of oak trees, gnarled and stately and beautiful. The trees were planted beside a river, and moss hung down from their branches.

The light coming through the old trees made them seem young; in fact, it made everything lovely. I marveled at the sight; how could so many giant trees grow together like this?

I could barely speak for amazement, but when I said aloud, “Where is this place?”, I heard the voice of the driver beside me. Though I couldn’t see her face, I could hear her reply. She said gently, “Honey, it’s not far.”

It’s not far. When I awoke, that statement still rang in my ears. What did it mean? As a way of answering that question, I’ve been thinking about other things that aren’t as far off as they may seem…

Real relationships aren’t far.

I think about this each time I visit the L’Arche home where my husband works. (L’Arche is a faith-based non-profit wherein people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.) It’s where I spent several years as a direct-care assistant, where my husband and I met and fell in love.

Though I’ve worked at L’Arche for nearly 5 years, I’m soon-to-be self-employed as a writer. This time of transition makes me realize just how important it is for me to stay connected to people. As such, I make sure to have supper at one of the L’Arche houses at least once per week. Those dinners are a part of my connective tissue, part of what keeps me sane. They remind me that I am loved not for what I do, but for who I am.

Compassion isn’t far.

Ever since I changed my work schedule, I’ve been making time for a walk or run every day. It’s made such a difference in my perspective. Being outside with no agenda but forward motion wakes me up. It allows me to notice what would ordinarily escape my attention: a crowd of little birds, pecking at a piece of bread; a family of deer, watching as I run past; an older gentleman, hitching up his pants when he thinks no one’s watching.

Of course, I’m like you: prone to forget that there’s beauty all around me. For example, yesterday morning I attended an 8am work meeting, and I woke up at 6am to get there in time. On my way to my (borrowed) car, I passed through the kitchen of the L’Arche home where I lived and worked for two years.

As I opened the door to the house, I was mentally composing a soliloquy of self-pity. My rant went something like this: “It’s so early, and I have to go to this meeting even though I woke up exhausted. I have a runny nose and a stye, I need a shower, and it’s all too much!” Had I run into anyone, I’m sure I would have started complaining aloud.

Fortunately, the house was deserted…deserted save for a lone figure slouched over his breakfast cereal. It was my friend Leo*, sitting with his bathrobe and eyes both half-open.

And as soon as I saw him, I could literally feel my attitude change. The sense of self-pity vanished; in its place, I felt compassion. Leo looked tired, too.

I thought of all the mornings I’d helped him with his routine, all the times I’d made sure that bathrobe went into the laundry. I thought of how much we’ve seen each other through. Both of us lost a close friend this year, and that grief has made its mark.

And what I felt in that moment was gratitude: for Leo, being alive; for me, being alive with him.

What’s beautiful isn’t far.

That oak-tree dream has stayed with me, not just because of the sense of blessing I felt upon waking but because of the truth embedded in it. It helped me to see that a world of beauty is never far away. Despite the sadness and death and hurt that is being alive, there are also glimpses of paradise to be found within this life we live.

*Names have been changed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • melody October 2, 2011, 10:07 am

    Loved this post so much. Amidst all the drudgery and pain, there are choices and thus, a silver lining. Besides our our abilities to make choices, there is much to be grateful for: people, warm beds, feet that walk, hope, etc. Just loved the whole thing!

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 2, 2011, 4:02 pm

      Thank you Melody! It’s interesting that you mention choices; there’s a lot of truth in the statement, “Happiness is wanting what you have.” So glad you liked the post.
      PS ~ Warm beds are, indeed, a delight. 🙂

  • Kel October 2, 2011, 11:33 am

    Thank you for this beautiful post today. 🙂

  • Jt Clough | Big Island Dog October 2, 2011, 11:54 am

    I have a friend who lost her husband 5 months ago suddenly to a heart attack after almost 30 years of marriage. She is devastated. But… she goes out and paddles in the ocean 5 days a week. It gets her up, it gets her out to watch the sunrise, to be on and in the ocean. Sometimes we see dolphins. Our outrigger crew is a mix of interesting people. We support her. She is seeing the beauty despite the loss and sadness.

    It has made a huge impact on me. I realize how much I have. I love my husband so very much. And even in those times when it can be irritating on certain days, I’m realizing how lucky I am. How much I love him. The irritation fades quickly. I beginning to see the beauty even in an irritating moment.

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 2, 2011, 4:08 pm

      Jt, that’s beautiful ~ thank you for sharing your story. Seeing the way beauty can come out of– and through– grief, it never ceases to amaze me…

  • Megyn @ Minimalist Mommi October 2, 2011, 12:09 pm

    Such a beautiful post! I often get stuck in the drudgery of my life (being a stay at home mom), so remembering that beauty is close by can be hard, especially when I feel pulled down by having children. I think this post will help be reframe how I look at my kids and instead of seeing dream killers, I hope I can find beauty in them. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 2, 2011, 4:20 pm

      Thanks Megyn ~ caregiving routines can, indeed, be wearying. I hope your body & spirit are able to rest this week!

  • Mike | Homeless On Wheels October 2, 2011, 1:03 pm

    Some days one has to look harder than others, but you are right; there’s beauty all around if we are willing to see it.

  • Deb Weaver October 2, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this reminder.

  • Tess The Bold Life October 3, 2011, 7:04 am

    Thanks for this beautiful piece. You had me by your side experiencing your feelings the entire time. And then I cried. You are an amazing person and writer. You’re already successful in every way. You rock!

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 3, 2011, 9:16 am

      Wow, thank you so much, Tess! I’m thrilled to hear that the piece moved you. You are a great friend & writing inspiration, and I’m thankful to know you.

  • Harriet Cabelly October 3, 2011, 7:34 am

    What a beautiful piece, Caroline. There’s beauty all around us; it’s all a matter of what our eyes filter in. What color are our glasses? Are we allowing the beauty to be taken in or are we just focused on the hardships/difficulties/pain/sadness that certainly also exists? The good and bad are both realities. But what are we honing in on? Can we notice and appreciate the good/beauty within the hardships and pain? So much is about perspective and attitude.

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 3, 2011, 9:18 am

      What a great series of questions, Harriet ~ connects well with Jt’s comment earlier, too!
      Thanks for sharing your interview with Temple Grandin today, too…another reminder to choose to focus on what IS working!

  • Victoria October 3, 2011, 2:19 pm

    A lovely reminder to return to the present moment, something so simple yet so hard to remember to do at times.

  • NTabacchi October 4, 2011, 6:39 am

    This piece reminded me of how we must always look up and be aware of the joy and beauty nature gives us.
    How we, and all life, are interconnected, how much we need one another, no man is an island. But most of all, if we open our hearts and mind to these things how love carries us through and stretches our soul. Keep running or walking and being in touch with the outdoors and nature . . . these things give life! Thank you so much for sharing and giving this moment to us through your story.

    • Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear October 4, 2011, 9:23 am

      Thank you, NTabacchi! I agree ~ it’s amazing how the simplest things, when viewed with love & attention, can give us so much life & energy.