In an article in the June 2013 issue of Southern Living magazine, writer Allison Glock talks about her great-grandfathers’ gardens, which were as different as the men themselves. One man’s garden was formal. The other’s was wild and free. Yet, each one was filled with beauty.
“In both houses,” Allison says, “there were jars of fresh flowers, blooms that reminded them that life could be beautiful, that they could make it so” (p. 78, “Portrait in Green”).
As I reflected on her words, I recalled the times I’ve visited (and photographed!) the garden of a humble, gentle-spirited man who lives in a small house. Like Allison’s great-grandfathers, this man has also surrounded himself with beauty.
He has planted flowers almost everywhere in his small yard. Other than a grassy pathway, which runs alongside his house and leads to his “sitting area” and to his small vegetable garden near the back fence, almost every available inch of his yard is ablaze with color.
In order to add a splash of color to the part of the yard that is more utilitarian than beautiful, he has hung a sunflower flag on a tree near a table covered with an assortment of unfilled flower pots.
He is happy to share the beauty of his garden with others. For example, when children in his neighborhood ask to be allowed to help him plant and weed and water, he teaches them to care for the plants and to appreciate their beauty, as he does.
Like Allison’s great-grandfathers, he believes life can be beautiful and that people can make it so.
They’re right, aren’t they? We can—and do—cultivate beauty in all kinds of spaces, whether in huge formal gardens surrounding a mansion or in limited space alongside a small house.
We also create beauty in all kinds of ways, not just in flower gardens. Consider: the chef who makes each entrée a work of art…the fashion designer who adds detail to a garment to make it uniquely beautiful…an interior designer who knows just what to put where in order to create a stunningly beautiful room.
Even folks who don’t get paid to create beauty do it instinctively. Take, for example, the person who creates beauty by artfully arranging assorted, chopped, colorful veggies…the man who washes and waxes his car until it looks brand new...the child who gathers a handful of wild flowers to present to her mother... the toddler who draws on a wall with a crayon…
Because we humans have an innate longing for beauty, we either find it—or create it!
Poets and writers use words to paint pictures for us to enjoy; photographers and artists create visual feasts. Even folks who don’t consider themselves artistic or creative, crave beauty and, thus, create it in all kinds of places and with whatever materials are at hand.
Even when life is hard—especially when life is hard—we have a need for beauty. We flank caskets with flowers to soften the harshness of death. We place flowers and balloon bouquets around the room of those who are ill. We dress in bright colors in order to lift our spirits.
Yes, life can be beautiful. And we should make it so! In the process, let’s also take time to thank our Father for the beauty He’s already provided for us, as Folliott S. Pierpoint did when, in 1864, he penned these words:
For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Christ our God to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.