Archive for the ‘beautiful’ Category

I ordered flowers for my wife last week. They almost made up for all the demands I have put on her for about — one day, but it was my utmost for the moment considering the limits of the pandemic. While living in extremis, giving what we can is still satisfying.

Almost is often the beautiful and satisfying result of utmost.

I used to workout at the gym. I can’t do that now so I use my stretchy bands at home. It’s an incomplete form of exercise, and yet it still successfully competes with what I did before.

Incomplete can still compete.

I look to God as the foremost beings in the universe, and I pray to him, but I know my prayers aren’t perfect. Too much asking. Not enough gratitude I’d say. I even think sometimes I could even be accused of acedia, spiritual sloth. I can’t seem to pray like I used to, but it’s almost as good.

My almost for His foremost.

I built four stonewalls last year in my gardens. I overdid it. I do that, sometimes, and sometimes the amount of work I do in a day is just right.

Sometimes is more honest than always.

The last couple of months I’ve spent mostly prone. Sick. Yuck. Laid low. Vulnerable. Blinkered. But I did orchestrate new financial arrangements for my family that brought about gains for my wife and I and both of my daughters. I had to work on accepting my limits and find successes where I could.

A partial victory is the satisfying reward given to acceptance.

Yesterday, I almost made the quintessential cup of espresso. I missed because the milk didn’t foam quite right. Great! Shoot!

Almost is a kind of first — and last.

My wife retired from her career as an archivist and a library loan specialist and then the pandemic hit. She had plans to volunteer at the zoo and exercise at the gym, but both of those are put on hold. Loss. Now she shops for groceries in a mask and supports me in the rough patch that I’ve been going through with my body. She makes huge, valiant and heroic efforts to normalize our lives.

Effort is often heroic and exists as a kind of loss steeped in kettle of valiant.

I’ve had careers as a teacher, a writer and a pastor. I was fairly satisfied with those, but careers are always in process and always present new challenges and new decisions to advance new initiatives. The goal never looked like one peak; it was more like making an constinuous approach march to many different high places.

Life is not summiting; it’s trailblazing.

Now I blog. And you my dear reader, you read. Thanks for that. It bonds us. Through this we come to some degree of connected wisdom, but wisdom is always something we practice on the next new challenge, and we often almost get it right. That’s the way it works. It’s kind of like playing a song on the piano and then trying it again, trying to interpret it and put the emotion and meaning it deserves into it. Practicing always invites us to another try.

Almost is a routine part of discipline.

A few weeks ago, before dawn, I took my telescope outside and looked at Jupiter and Saturn. I could see the moons of Jupiter orbiting the great planet, and the gorgeous ring of Saturn almost resolved, but I noted that the telescope was slightly out of alignment and so the mirrors weren’t quite up to the task. I gave it my total effort and so did the scope. I almost saw the fine detail in beautiful things, and as I look back on it I did see something beautiful in the try.

Almost is one of the most beautiful and coveted outcomes of total.

By now you must be getting the point. Almost — it is as common as a potato on a dinner plate. Almost, is good, like strawberries when they are almost but not quite perfectly sweet and not quite deliciously ripe. They are still good, especially if you top them with whipped cream.

Life is full of “almost,” the almost perfect relationship, the almost beautiful garden, the almost but not quite completed persona, and accepting that in one area of the fight can act as a halo effect, giving us contentment in other areas that don’t live up to perfectly perfect. To be satisfied with life — the limits it imposes, the yet unsung song it sings, the way things don’t always work out perfectly, we do well to come to a deep acceptance of an essential and ever-present ingredient of it. We do extremely well to value and love the je ne sais quoi that makes us mature, the hard to accept, the challenge to embrace — the amazing “almost.”


If you like short, pithy, aphoristic expressions of insight, you can find more of my thought-proverbs, aphorisms and epigrams at

Our determinations need constant reorientation. When labels start coming into our heads (loathsome, ugly, loser, winner), we should question them—recognize a label as the insubstantial thing it is, and let it go. It’s not helpful. It’s going to undermine our imaginations. Love something unusual. Kittens and lilies are fine, but maybe try the vulture or the dandelion …”

Debbie Blue

Love the dandelion. I like that. But vultures? I’m still working on the loveliness of vultures. Reorient your “determinations.” That’s sage advice.

Rather than “loser,” lover would be the healthy way to see ourselves. We are not ugly or ordinary or loathsome, even if our bodies or personalities don’t check all the beauty boxes society creates for being “hot” or “smart” or “handsome” or “attractive.”

Where do we get our sense of the beautiful or good looking? In many instances the fictions surrounding our concepts of beauty are crafted by culture. ”Beauty” is put on display by the power elite, by businesses, by media, advertisers, celebrities and influencers. They put “beauty” in front of us to sell things, to win attention, to manipulate public opinion — for gain.

And while there might be some innate sense of beauty based on size, morphology, proportion or symmetry, beauty is deeply subjective and as we commonly say, “in the eye of the beholder.”

An old man says his old wife, “To me you are the most beautiful person in the world “ and she is. A child says to her scruffy cat sitting on her lap, “I love you my cute kitty,” and the kitty is cute — named by love. These have gone beyond societies iron hoops of stigma and laurel.

One generation sees skinny and shiny as beautiful. Ours. Check out the ads. Another sees more flesh as beautiful. Look at the paintings of Rubens. Peter Paul Rubens (1577 -1640) was a seventeenth-century Flemish Baroque painter. He as a proponent of an exuberant Baroque style that emphasized color and sensuality. His nude paintings? Loads of fat! Layers of fat. Opulent, corpulent, rippling folds of fat — puffy knees and massive, bulging butts everywhere! Fleshy folds meant health, wealth, order and stability. A hilly, human landscape was in. Lean flesh and bones were for the poor and sick.

Things have changed. Plump is now déclassé. Or things haven’t changed. Manufactured images still rule our minds. Airbrushed and photoshopped pictures both reflect and rule our tastes. You know you are watching TV these days when everybody on the screen is freakishly beautiful by modern standards, ripped and royal, cartoonishly thin, perfectly plasticish, measuredly boobish and buttish with an amazing amount of thick, glossy hair and perfect skin.

Do this. Don’t buy that, an anemic, reductive, age-limited sense of the beautiful. Name yourself out of love for yourself. See your own worth to yourself and others. Engage in meta-consciousness. See yourself from above.

Here is the deal, a real deal. Be vatic; be self-prophetic. Be retromod. Look back on yourself with modern eyes. You are beautiful in ways that you can see and name. You are all you have ever been or done. Loyalty is beautiful. Servanthood, beautiful. Brave suffering is beautiful. Self-care is beautiful. Pregnant is beautiful. Old age is beautiful. Vultures are beautiful. They eat death, just as Christ eats death. Dandelions are beautiful. They feed bees. The more you know about something or someone often the more beautiful they become to you. Arachnologists think spiders are wonderful, even beautiful. They are.

Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre, a French naturalist, entomologist, and author known for the lively style of his popular books on the lives of insects, is proof in the entomology pudding. I love his love of the tiny creatures, his appetency for Pine Caterpillars, peacock moths and the unsung burying beetles. I love this poet of insects. He once wrote, “What matters in learning is not to be taught, but to wake up.” …

Advice from the trenches: Wake up to unsung beauty. See what others have missed. Move beyond subjective, cultural aesthetics and labels. Be meta-cultural. Run beyond beauty stereotypes. Such thinking is apotropaic. An accurate and affirmative sense of self has the power to avert evil influences, particularly the evils of self-condemnation.

Awake to yourself. Name yourself. Name something of or in yourself beautiful today. Name something that is different beautiful today.

And when a flock of bluebills, pitching pondward, tears the dark silk of heaven in one long rending nose-dive, you catch your breath at the sound, but there is nothing to see except stars.”

So writes Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There, a beautiful 1949 piece of nature writing. Aldo was an iconic woodsman, ecologist and environmentalist.

Reading his poetic lines you can just see him out in the marsh in the dark — waiting early or late there to hear and to wonder. Leopold is our model, our nature guru, our father forester who reminds us the land is sacred and the creatures sacred too. And we should wait on them.

This morning my wife and I sat in the family room looking out at our small backyard pond. We were waiting. We were waiting for the birds to come. We were waiting for some new migrating spring birds to show.

Sometimes seeing and hearing is all about getting in the right place and waiting, waiting for something to pitch pondward toward you, to tear the silk of heaven in front of you. To see you.

And sure enough, pitching pondward, a flash of color, a bright orange and black, a male, hooded Oriole. He landed on the trellis above the pond, all brilliant yellow-orange and deepest black, dropped aflutter to the water, splashed, and then winged back to the fence, rear end fluffy-wet and clean.

The first Oriole of the season! We felt so honored. And then as if that was not enough avian showboating suddenly brown phoebes were hopping on the ground all puffy and fat. And a white crowned sparrow lit on the stucco walland turned to show off his amazing eye stripes. And then a bit later a rare — to our yard — Rüfüs hummingbird darted into our blue plumbago, hovered over the pond and then in a reddish-brown flash — was gone.

When we planted all yard we planted for birds and butterflies. When we made a small pond, we made it for water lilies and water Hawthorne and duckweed — and birds. Doing so we tipped our hats to Claude Monet, Aldo Leopold, Emily Dickinson, Annie Dillard, Jean-Henri Fabre, John Bartram, God and other favorite environmentalists, poets, botanists and painters. 

What to do?

Build a pond set up a blind, or plant flowers, put out seeds and bread crumbs — and wait more.

The wonders are worth the wait.

Yesterday I went out to the side patio and waited for the sun to pop out from behind a dark cloud. When it did I noticed several things.

I could feel my arms and shoulders and spirit become all warmish, snugly and radiant from the rays falling my skin. How cozy; how encouraging.

Exposure to sunlight — while we know too much can be harmful — is thought to increase the brain’s release of serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm, focused, easeful. Light therapy! Get out; grab some serotonin.

The sun; the warmth, the brightness — I feel very easiated, calmified and soothed by our hydrogen-helium star. It’s not big compared to other stars, nonetheless it contains 99.8% of the total mass in our solar system. That’s a lot of warmth!

Our sun is almost 110 times the diameter of our earth! Over one million Earth’s could be squashed inside the Sun, and yet for me yesterday‘s rays — an eight-minute-journey from sun to me — were gentle and soft and just the right distance away to give me life, and vitamin D. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol.

Looking, I noted that the sun fell on in front of me and turned the lawn a gorgeous scintillant, bright green, in contrast to the grass left in the shade by the fence. And the shadow art from the flowers along the walk jumped out and became darker on the brown paved walk.

I sat still, gazing at sun and shadow wonders all around. The silver sheen bush at the edge of the house turned into a thousand tiny mirrors, each small, round leaf reflecting lambent, silver light. Taken together the bush was aglitter, glinting, glistening.

I love light. It’s more than warmth. It’s color, all the colors in the spectrum. This morning we woke to a rainbow out our back sliding glass door. A rainbow — a promise of protection — is formed out of light passing through water. It’s gorgeous — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

When the air is full of water after a rainstorm, the droplets act as prisms creating rainbows, colored in hope, reminding us of God’s love for us. Rainbows are circular in shape because the prisms (raindrops) that created them are spherical.

During this time of social isolation, remember to get outside a bit in safe places, in your yard or patio or for a safe walk, especially when the sun is shining.

Go out and see and feel the warmth, the wondrous, winsome solar wealth, the colors, sparkles, and spectaculars in the light. It’s a reminder that life is still warm and bright and that God has created the universe that still has good and love in it

“They’re really going to like this!” said God when he put a paper-thin, white wrapper on a garlic clove to keep it moist and fresh until use. “It’s a perfect bonne bouche!” he added.

I noticed this perfect thin, white wrapper yesterday when I used a garlic press to squish the yummy, savory garlic spice into my pot of steaming white bean soup. The thin paper was left in the bottom of the press. Amazing!

Gifts, wrapped and placed in containers are everywhere.

God loves us. He gift-wrapped so many things for us.

He must have taken delight in how much we would take delight in wrappers and containers and their contents and how much we would benefit.

Our oranges have thick, pungent bright orange rinds, bananas that perfectly peel-able yellow jacket, apples the shiny red edible skin — all these packing many needed essentials.

Fruits are pouches for essential nutrients — potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folate (folic acid).

In times like these, when fear an uncertainty are high, its helpful to notice the small, safe, protective container-gifts that we have been given. They are everywhere.

Yes, this rock we live on is dangerous, but we have wonderful layers and covers and containers and skins to enjoy today and to be thankful for.

Our own skin, the bag we live in, holds in all our complex organic machinery. The average adult has approximately 21 square feet of skin which weighs 9 pounds and contains more than eleven miles of blood vessels. The average person has about 300 million skin cells.

And we have our white blood cells — also called leukocytes or leucocytes — and they are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders. Yea!

Furthermore, our soft clothing keeps us modest and warm. Our homes with walls and roofs keep us warm and dry and safe. Our cars, and buses and trains and planes carry us safely many miles in their metal skins.

Yes, we get sick, but we often live covered, enclosed, encased, protected lives, and for those who don’t or can’t have such protections, the well-world must take great care and bring them inside and close them in and protect them and keep them safe, the homeless, the refugees the immigrants. This is love, to put a coat over another.

There is more. Earth’s atmosphere, its atmospheric stratification, is commonly divided into five layers. Excluding the exosphere, the four primary layers are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere.

These wonderful wrappings enclose our earth, keep in the heat, hold our weather, protect us from the sun. The thin layer of gas called ozone, high up in the atmosphere, filters out ultraviolet radiation.

The Earth’s atmosphere is also good at shielding us from space rocks hurtling towards the planet. Our strong air pressure causes many meteors to break up into small pieces.

The extreme heat generated as the meteoroid passes through the atmosphere causes it to burn up in what we see as streaking flashes of light.

We are protected. Of course, today, as the world is reeling from the execrable coronavirus we may not feel or think of all these protections, but we must to be rational and balance our perspective.

Yes, there is illness. Yes, a large meteor might strike the earth and harm us. Yes, one day the sun will exploded and take out the earth, but yes, yes, yes today we yet experience many wonderful layers of protection surrounding our food, our bodies, our homes, our earth.

“They’re really going to like this — bark, membrane, sheath, dermis, film, carapace, shell, hull, capsule, chamber, package, pocket, packet, pouch!”

Today, steady yourselves, and noticed the protective layers around you — and say to yourself, “I like this.”

Do you have power?

You do. You are not feckless, weak, incompetent. You are savvy, cogent, strong! God did not give you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power! 

Today I received a package from Amazon that I ordered for my daughter. It’s a set of Skullcandy head phones. I took the time to make sure that they worked fine. Doing something for others, that always makes me feel better. You and I have the power to make other people’s lives better.

Buy extra toilet paper if you must. Then give some of it away to your neighbors.

You have power. You have agency. That power is in your body. All the arteries, veins, and capillaries of a human child, stretched end to end, are estimated to wrap around the Earth about 2.5 times (the equivalent of about 60,000 miles). Blood is pulsing through your whole body today nourishing and caring for your cells. Such built-in power is keeping you alive! It is allowing you to move your limbs and do things today. How wonderful!

Today I dust mopped the floors. What a privilege to have a home, to have floors, to clean.

You have power in your mind. The average brain has 86 billion neurons. Today you can remember good things and learn new things. My daughter is making soup. She asked for my recipe. We texted back-and-forth about yummy soup and spices.

Today I’m writing this blog. I’m doing this to give myself advice, and I’m hoping that it helps you, one of my friends, to have a better day. Our lives are now limited but they can be still directional.

Your spirit is powerful. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” We actually have a built in sense of surviving, lasting, being saved from even death. We are predisposed to anticipate salvation.

Something in you wants to live. Something if you want to live a beautiful life. That was put there by God. Recognize his desire within you. You just made contact with your own spirit. The will to live is physical; it is also spiritual.

It is especially important to realize your power when you don’t feel like your life is beautiful. Use your mind to tell yourself what is true and good for you. For me it is good that others love me and take care of me.

We can’t control all of reality, but we can somewhat control our reactions to it. Maintain your narrative fidelity. Be true to your own story. My story is tied to the earth. I garden. I grow flowers. And grass. It rained today! I love to hear it in the gutters? The grass is greenly grateful.

Today I’m reminding myself that I have enough, that I am enough, that I have done enough and that whatever else there is for me to do is in God’s hands. I’m trusting him for his definition for my level of productivity in the future.

Today many of us are sheltered at home because of the coronavirus. We may feel somewhat helpless and anxious, powerless in our new darker, poorer, diseased, Stygian world.

Anxious questions may arise in our minds. Will we get sick? Will we have enough food? Will those of us who work be able to keep our jobs and pay our bills?

For those of us who suffer illnesses, will we be able to get proper medical care?

Such questions make us feel helpless and powerless because they bring up possible deprivations or losses.

But we have the power to take charge of our thoughts and reactions. We can choose to obsess on what’s wrong, or we can focus on mini-solutions to our questions.

We can go over our financial resources and make an emergency plan, write it down, consider options. What will we do if we are out of work for a month? What will we do if we are out of work for two months? Plans help calm our anxieties. If we aren’t sure of a financial decision we can call someone we trust who is good with finances and ask what they would do. I know someone who did that yesterday and the wise financial step suggested hadn’t been thought about before.

We can eat the food we have today and enjoy it. I just finished a coconut popsicle! I’m drinking a calming tea now. If you need more food, plan a trip to the store when others may not be there in great numbers. There is enough food in the stores. Make wise choices. If you need more medicine order it online.

Today, at home, we have the power to do many things that are important.

We can titrate our exposure to the news. That means we can keep up and stay informed and yet sense when we’re watching too much and just creating more anxiety in ourselves. There’s a balance somewhere.

Today we can rest from striving, from trying to justify our existence by what we do, and we can do something really powerful, and that is to realize that we were worthy of being loved without performing. We can do this by being kind to ourselves today, for example moving between small projects and resting.

I just cooked up a spaghetti squash for dinner. I made a small bean taco for a snack! It was a cheery little taco! With its corn tortilla it tasted kind of like a tamale.

It was a small kindness to myself.

What does it look like to be kind to oneself?

It means making choices that are within our power that nurture our bodies and souls. I’m reading a good book today, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Lori weaves her own story of going to counseling with the stories of those who come to her for therapy. This book reminds me that our presenting issues are not always are real issues. It helps me to ask what is really going on with me? It helps me to reevaluate my stories and think: Has what I have been telling myself true or not?

We can can do other home things, cleaning, reorganizing, watching positive TV shows, texting friends or talking on the phone to family.

I love you. I want you to feel safe. I want you to love yourself.

What will you do the rest of this day to calm, sooth and nurture yourself and the ones you love?

This morning I went out and sat on the front porch about 9 AM. I was stressed, a medical procedure is scheduled for later today. The sun was warm on my face and arms. It’s January. But it’s the Southwest. I shed my long sleeve workout shirt and pulled my jammies up to my knees so I could feel the heat on my legs.

My wife came out to join me. We noted that the ornamental pear tree in the front yard is beginning to bloom; tiny red buds will soon pop out into white blossoms. Later in the season the bright white pedals will fall to the ground like spring snow when the wind blows. it’s turning spring in Southern California. The lantana’s in the yard are flowering purple, yellow and red. Weeds are popping up in the flowerbeds; grass is turning green in the driveway cracks. Life is renewing.

As we sat in the sun, small birds came and went from the pear tree like commuters arriving and leaving from a major airport.

We went in and grabbed some binoculars and bird identification books. I’ve always loved the birds, their amazing ability to fly, their beautiful markings and coloration, their robust busyness, their characteristic insouciance.

This morning the birds were like flowers in the trees, “There’s a red one! There’s a yellow one! Is that a warbler, no I think it’s a goldfinch. It’s so yellow but it has a white wing bar. And the red ones. I think the’re house finches. Look at all the striping on the chest, the red throat and head.

I’m never sure about some of these identifications. Maybe the goldfinches were warblers. It doesn’t matter. We saw them. We grounded ourselves in reality. We grounded ourselves in the supernatural.

We sat in the gold. The cool breeze brushed against our faces. We turned our eyes upward to sun, blue sky and tree. More birds came, a black phoebe, an Anna’s hummingbird. We heard a dove cooing.

These fragile, beautiful lifeforms remind us of something important. They reminders that we are taken care of, that we have been taken care of and that we will be taken care of, fed, sheltered, treasured.

They remind us that we are valued, cared for, that someone is watching us, someone who knows our names— without uncertainty — who knows our identities and knows our futures.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 6

So don’t worry. And don’t be afraid, the best you can. Right! This can be hard. I know. There is harm in our world. You will experience trouble at times. I understand. But be reminded that we overthink what we fear. Try to stop that. The habitual, mental loop goes nowhere. Stop trying to control what you can’t control. Let life, God, good come to you more rather than trying to wrestle it from the world. Practice good psycho-hygiene. Lean into the burgeoning good all around you. Breathe in provisions deeply. Be grateful.

Live like the birds. Take found food. It will be there in the tree in bloom near you. Fly with the flock from one safe space to another, unless you need to roost and rest. Find safe places to roost. Don’t be afraid to rest alone.

My heart is for you and with you. You are not alone. Your Heavenly Father is near and so am I, in this small blog, caring for you the best I can.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:26

Jesus offers an invitation.


Instead of worrying, look.

Look at the birds, or the rain, or a family member, or even something as simple as your good food, even if it imperfect or limited.

It was and is provided. Be grateful. This is mental health. Gratitude for the present replaces worry about the future.

Looking is therapy!

Seeing what is present and understanding why and how it is present is healing. What is present is grace. What we worry over is not, it is a kind of self-inflicted punishment. Worry rushes from the present to live in a tortuous future.

But to look at the in-your-face good is to enter into a divine reality, to pick up a spirit of gratitude, a sense of safety, and this drives us away from our obsessive tendency to worry.

I am practicing this today. This morning I felt the fluffy of my cat which is the same fluffy of my sweet wife’s bathrobe. Comfort there.

I listen to the rain. I listen to the soft flicker of the fire. I listen to the click of the refrigerator door. The microwave plays a four note tune to tell me it has heated my drink properly.

Wisdom is about the present, noticing the beauty of the present, as it is, being grateful for the things smack dab in front of us without wanting them to be different.

“Look” said Jesus. Look at what is around you that reminds you that God is present, that he is in control, that he is taking care of the smallest things.

Look and see, God is all over the abc’s, the basics, the 1,2,3’s of living. Understand the beauty of what is now, the “what” or the “whatness” of our everyday life. To see and appreciate this is to make friends with reality and with God.

When we ground ourselves in the sentient now and revel in immediate “here” — the sounds, smells, colors that waft over the sides of our boats, the sensory gift fish we happen to haul in today, then we are following Jesus and making peace with ourselves and our world.

One of the ways that we derive acute meaning and pleasure and see beauty in life lies in our ability to experience the quiddity or essence of persons or things.

Rembrandt’s genius was his unparalleled ability to render a person’s quiddity in a single portrait.

My wife’s genius, her quiddity, lies in her ability to see a problem and devise a solution that helps another person get something they need.

The word quiddity originated in the Latin word quid meaning “what.” Quiddity was defined by the ancients as the real nature of a thing; its essence.

In medieval scholastic philosophy “quiddity” quidditas literally meant “whatness.” For these philosophers quiddity described properties that a particular substance ( say a person) shared in with others of its kind, and so entails a description by way of commonality.

The quest for a quiddity represents a romantic and idealistic human quest for meaning. It represents a way of thinking, an effort to get to a main thing, something bordering on a quest for universals, something Platonic, a quest for the Plato’s forms, something that helps us understand a complex thing in a simple way.

And yet it’s not so high flying as all that. Quiddity is smaller than universal. It is more attainable. It is that fleeting fragrance of the flower I just passed by, the honeysuckle in my backyard, experienced for a brief moment, absorbed, loved but not catalogued as eternal or forever fixed. What is the quest for beauty. 

Quiddity, at its simplest and most sensory, is a brief flash of recognition and pleasure of essence.

This is how we were meant to live, philosophically and joyfully sentient. Wise Jesus said that he came to give us life, life abundantly, life flowing over the edge of the cup. He came to empower us to experience the quality of being human, and of being one with each other and himself. He designed us to receive essences, to be in receipt of the ultimate essence, love.

But not wanting to fly too high over our own heads, although we can soar into the best things life has to offer (connection, community, love, the divine) we can also talk about this kind of thing, about quiddity, in earthy, historical, everyday, garden variety terms.

Consider Frank Loyd Wright, the famed American architect. It has been said that his architecture is organic. This is a rough and crude distinction, but it helps understand the man. The structures he designed vary widely in look, but the theme of fitting in with the environment is common to many of them.

He himself said about this:

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.”

“No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”

By such statements we begin to get at the quiddity of his designs, a harmony between hill and house. He built to nature. His buildings honor their environments, his “Falling Water” house being perhaps the finest example. A rushing waterfall runs out from under the house.

So why labor to identify quiddity?

For this reason: To discover the nature of a thing is to understand and to increase pleasure in living through our amazing world. It may also help us to understand evil, and injustice, but then that is another exploration for another time.

The quest for quiddity is one mechanism for increasing our understanding and pleasure. As applied to the good things of life, it is a quest to experience beauty. 

So what would it take for you and I to apprehend the quiddity present in people and things around us on a day-to-day basis?

The question is fraught with philosophical, epistemological and ontological problems.

Let’s skip those. We will never all agree on the universal essence of anything, or even on how we come to that, but what we can do is simply savor what we perceive to be the essence or essences of something in any given moment.

How might we do that? How might we dive deeper into the rich essence of experience? How might we see, know, apprehend and classify our experiences of the “other,” the “what” better?

This way: Make the choice to pause, to be in the present moment and to suck it up, straw it up into our awareness. It will take the extended pause needed to really see and hear and feel. It will take the pause that hovers over something, that lets it be for us what it is. It will take the willingness to savor the thing, the thing’s “what,” its pleasure rating, its place on the pleasure spectrum. This will have to be done without rushing on to the next moment in which the lovely, glowing, fragrant, sensuous quiddity of the previous moment is always lost.

This morning as I ground my espresso beans and packed them into the portafilter basket, I breathed them. I breathed in the sweet, poignant, nutty, earthy fragrance of ground coffee, freshly baked.

The quiddity of good espresso exists in its smell and taste, which exists in the art of how it was originally dried, baked and processed. It’s real essence is the land it came from, it’s elevation, it’s rainfall, it’s soil.

When I drink espresso, I drink it’s quiddity, it’s immediate history, the machine it was just extruded from, the water it is dissolved in, the heat that helped extract it, the ratio of water to bean. And when I drink espresso I drink its older history, the place it grew, its geography, the people who grew and harvested it. I drink a complex old-new quiddity that is reduced for me to a beautiful smell and taste that I and so many others know and love so well. And then there is the jolt, the caffeine rush, another very personalized quiddity of the much loved coffee bean.

Quiddity, the word has such a fluid sound. It easily slides into place with its definition. And it offers us a pointer, a crude gesture toward living well.

To pause, over each person and thing we encounter, and closing our eyes to breathe in an essence, a gorgeous “whatness,” the what that is right in front of us — ahhhh.

This is one way to live well.

It’s raining today in San Diego. 

It’s wondrous! 

Some fear it — the driving in it, of course — but once safe from its road danger or flood danger, we may savor it. 

Today the great planet’s vapor wrap, the earth’s blanket of water — the great H2O machine is showing off for us — it’s raining it’s pouring.  Rain is our planets bio-refresher, life-lover, world cleaner, body-maker, fun-creator, cup-filler. It’s in your body, in your pipes, in your glass, your coffee cup, in your puddle, rivulet, stream, river and ocean.

About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the average adult human body is 50-65% water. The percentage of water in infants is around 75-78%.

Today wet life, what makes up you, is falling out of our atmosphere to the ground on San Diego County.

The atmosphere above is a fluid. It flows like a river over us, moving through the troposphere, the lowest layer of the earth’s atmosphere. This is where our weather takes place. This safe zone, our life zone, is complex and amazing. Billions of years of biochemical modification were required make this beautiful, livable bubble of ultra violet protection, this shell of life surrounding us, and this lovely rain filled day is properly seen as a product of great change and vast time and endless love.

The Bible says God sends the rain, on all of us, good or not. Rain is his care, his life, his restoration, his love for all of us. Jesus spoke of him self as a well-spring of living water. 

This is wonderful.

Raindrops are symbolic of love. Water literally is life and love. The drops falling on us are ancient goodness treasures, divine medicines — a Summum bonum, a highest good, incapsulated.

To form rain drops, water vapor collects on dust and smoke particles in our clouds. A water skin forms and the molecules stick together as little droplets. Their shape is spherical, round, not tear drop shaped, as often imagined. 

Raindrops range from tiny to quite large but often break up as they get sizeable. As a drop increases in diameter, its shape becomes more oblate, flattened at the poles. Large rain drops become increasingly flattened on the bottom, like hamburger buns; very large ones are shaped like parachutes.

Squished spheroids, bun-like blobs, even bell-like parachutes fall from the sky on us as gorgeous silver, shimmery manna. See this reality as it is — and delight!

This morning I watched a fast river of water run down my street to the storm drain. Powerful!

Later, I watched silver drops fall off the arm of a patio chair and fall into a puddle. Instantly radiating circles spread to the edge of the puddle and disappeared in an instant at the edge.

I look out the back window and see the drops that have stuck to the glass. Diamonds. It rains harder. I hear the downspouts gurgling. I see the gray steaks of rain dimming the trees it falls in front of, like an artist smearing a canvas so that the edges of things turn soft and vague. Soft rain tempers reality, it smooths it, soothes it.

After this downpour the color of the grass is greener, the redwood trellis on my fence becomes a deep, orangey red. The clouds float east like great ships. Blue sky peeps through, but I know more water is coming. The forecasters have worked their magic, their doppler radar, their satellites, their numerical  calculations, their models, their algorithms.

But what will come, foreseen accurately or not is more beauty, more glory, more soothing, loving gifts. 

What is a day with rain? 

It is a day to be in the moment. It is a day to accept what is. It is day to explore the beauty of our world. It is a day to open our hands. 

Umbrellas from the sky, oblate spheroids falling in gray lines, tiny silver circles hitting the flat surfaces with flashes of light, wind dancing the palms, drops drumming the roof, the fence, the windows, water whooshing in the streets — it’s an endless banquet of sight and sound.

Love rain. Love life. Love God who gives it

. Love yourself enough to pause and see it, detect it, note its nuances, see something perhaps you didn’t see before, receive. 

Pluvia is the Latin for rain, and phile of course the Latin that connotes love. Perhaps today is a day to be pluviophiles, rain lovers, those who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.