Terrible Beauty

Terrible Beauty


This morning, driving the children to school, the skies were gorgeously astounding to behold. Something about the way the clouds were patterned and scattered in patches; allowing the sun to shine and flow through in distinct rays; the pink and lavender hue… it took my breath away. I gushed to the kids: “Oh my god! Look at this beauty this morning! Look at those amazing pink rays, and how those unusual clouds are letting the light through… wow, it’s just spectacular.”

Ezra (6.5) in the back, looked eagerly out his window, and sighed sweetly “Ahhhhh” in vocal agreement. But Arayla, (10.5) sitting next to me in the front, checked out what I was so delighted by, and then said, soberly: “Unfortunately, Mom, I believe this is a product of Global Warming; maybe that in combination with the Chem Trails.” (I kid you not. She actually said those exact words.) 

I was somewhat humored in that horrified kind of way, that this would be my young daughter’s perception of a gorgeous morning display of sky-beams, and said to her “What? Why would you say that?” She was calm, explaining: “I was just reading about this~ a kind of cloud formation that is due to Global Warming, causing all those patches and layers of color to appear.” I had a moment of being stunned quiet, considering: What if our children are growing up in a world where they can’t witness a gorgeous morning sunrise without seeing the melting of our planet; can’t visit our beloved ocean without wondering if it’s safe to smell the mist arising from it, let alone dive in?

I decided I was going to speak on behalf of innocent beauty: “You know, my loves, amazing clouds existed way before Global Warming and Chem Trails. Every sunrise is a sacred time of new beginning. Sometimes a beautiful sky is just a beautiful sky, and it’s ok to love and celebrate its beauty.” Ezra, feeling my emotional tone, getting protective of my love for beauty, said: “Come on, Arayla, let’s just let Mom think it’s beautiful.”

This struck me as almost as sad as the rest of it, as though they might feel I couldn’t handle the ruthless truth of the situation: “Let’s just placate poor Mom and let her think the world is beautiful.” How horrible. Then Arayla said, totally nonchalant, but gently: “Yes, well, sometimes terrible things are beautiful, aren’t they, Mom? Just because it’s beautiful, doesn’t mean it’s not caused by something terrible. And just because it’s terrible, doesn’t mean we can’t still find it beautiful. The skies are beautiful, Mama. They really are. ”

I thought about my beloved friend, who said 6 days after her 3 year old son’s death, at his breathtakingly, heart-achingly gorgeous memorial service: “We can’t make it happy, but maybe we can make it beautiful.”  Can you imagine? That’s what she actually said.

I grabbed Arayla’s hand and kissed it, and said: “How did you get so wise?” Her eyes brightened, she smiled, and she said: “Oh, you know, Mom.” And so it is, folks. I’m opening wider to receive the terrible beauty of stewarding amazing wide-awake children who see what’s up on our planet, are immensely concerned, impacted, and somewhat bewildered to sense what they are inheriting.

May we walk in beauty, see the beauty, speak with beauty, honor beauty, make beauty with our love and lives. In moments, the very act of seeing and naming beauty in our troubled world can feel revolutionary.