I was painting a chair yesterday, listening to Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes read The Creative Fire, when I heard her use the phrase “Lonely for Beauty”.
Why was I painting a chair? Because function is important, but not the only important thing in life. Needing a space to eat and entertain, I had bought a pine table with six chairs. They were second-hand from a local charity shop. Solid, functional, a good shape, comfortable chairs. But varnished with that particularly violent 1980s-style orange-y finish. So I’m painting each piece a pale grey-green, using Annie Sloan chalk paints, waxing and buffing to a gorgeous sheen, not even trying to cover up the chips and dents, because they are part of the character of the wood.
And I’m having to do it slowly. The nights are drawing in and it’s impossible to paint well in artificial light, so I have to do a piece or two each weekend. The table is done, one chair is finished, two are in progress.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think the world is lonely for beauty, and beauty often doesn’t come instantly. As I wait (im)patiently for daylight, for first then second coats to dry, as I buff so hard my muscles ache, I know that at the end of it all I will have added a touch of beauty to what was pedestrian.
How can we add beauty?
It’s been tough to read or watch the news the past few months. Always is, but lately the constant demonstrations of the ugliest side of human nature has, I think, affected us all.
Perhaps there’s a particular role we can play in the world, we women in our elder years. With all our chips and dents. Because we are beginning to know (Know: to apprehend clearly and with certainty) that we are the ugliness and we are the beauty. So maybe our task is to begin again continually to choose one over the other. Sometimes we won’t be able to choose beauty. Sometimes it will be a black bile day.
But in a world that’s lonely for beauty, every tiny act of creativity, every tattered piece of kindness can be our work in this part of our lives.
What do you think?