Beauty in the ugliness of 2020? Seeing beauty through anything? Hmmm. This year has walloped and wiled its way into most everything we’ve considered normal in our lives.
Remember our pre-mask days when we could breathe freely or could actually understand what people were saying to us? Or what about the convenience of finding everything we need at the grocery store? Remember when we rarely used hand sanitizer?
This year may not be, my friend, the year we count as our best ever. But maybe there is something to be said about discovering beauty through anything. Trust me, my name is not Polly or Anna or a combo of the two, but I do believe that sometimes our perspective is clouded over by our problems. I was there just yesterday, stuck in Stressville. Wallowing in Whinerville.
This morning I readjusted my thinking and emotions during my devotions before the sun came up and a brisk but pleasant walk with Maisie. And I recalled the story of a friend’s hometown that was almost completely decimated by freakish twin tornadoes in June 2014. Pilger, Nebraska, was pummeled. Pounded. Pulverized. Yet in this quaint farming town seemingly obliterated to rubble and nothingness, Liz’s family home was still standing. It was surreal to watch a nationally televised aerial sweep of Pilger and spot their home upright and sturdy.
Pilger, with its nearly 380 people, is more than three times the population of my hometown. I get the tranquility of small-town living. The neighborliness of folks who know your middle name and remember the weather on the day you were born. These are the hearty folks that recover together when adversity roars with an unpredictable vengeance. In many ways, 2020 has prepared us all for this type of recovering together.
Seeing Beauty in the Present
I, like author Kathleen Norris, understand the tested resiliency of farmers, ranchers, and rural villagers. After living a number of years in voguish New York City, Kathleen returned to the rugged lands of her pioneer ancestors. Stumbling through her adjustment to the unforgiving landscape of western South Dakota, Kathleen wrote in her book Dakota, “I had to stay in this place, like a scarecrow in a field, and hope for the brains to see its beauty.”
Perhaps 2020 is showing us all the perspective of Kathleen Norris. Stay put. Ride out the isolation of the barren flatland or the desolation of a tornado-stripped community and hope to see the beauty in the present.
Somehow in our day-to-day and the wrestling with COVID, lockdowns, and losses, we are designed to experience beauty poking through our layers of disbelief and depletion.
As the people in Pilger exemplified, beauty comes in the people who stand by us through thick and thin. Beauty comes in learning to dwell on what we do have instead of on what we lack. Picking up the pieces unfolds fresh loveliness as we shift our trust in the things of this world.
Oh for the determination to stay when we feel like running and the brains to see the beautiful good no matter which way the wind blows.