The scene above interrupted our dinner one recent evening, the sunset glow too beautiful to do anything but stare. We stopped eating and simply looked. Long golden rays kissed the tips of chamisa and rose and wild hyssop and Russian sage in our garden while at the same moment lighting up the Sandia Mountains a few miles away.
Sandia is the Spanish word for “watermelon,” and a geologist will tell you the Sandias glow red at sunset because they contains feldspar. It is a perfectly good explanation. It speaks to the physical elements of the rock. But it doesn’t explain elemental experiences such as jaw-dropping awe, which burst our hearts wide open when we get treated to a scene like this.
Beauty such as this is fleeting—five minutes at most on lucky evenings. Yet we get lucky a lot around here. It’s why I live here—I need beauty.
Reserves of strength
We all do. We need beauty especially during challenging times. Beauty gives us juice for living. “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts,” wrote Rachel Carson.
Beauty is indispensable—especially when those tender places inside us are being hammered by stingy or heartless acts of others. Beauty reminds us that the world is generous, that we do nothing to deserve its gifts.
Opening to beauty means choosing generosity over heartlessness. Beauty disciplines our hearts to joy like riverbanks nudging the current ever closer to the sea. Opening to beauty, over and over again, means saying yes to a fierce and wild hope—a hope that has nothing to do with expecting better times in the future and everything to do with soaking up goodness available right now.
To receive beauty, again and again, is to be trained in love.