Fall, in Love

golden leavesLast year around this time, as we scuffled through the fallen leaves covering a local park trail, my now-husband Steve recalled an article he’d seen about the process by which leaves change colors. The brilliant orange and yellow and red hues of autumn are always present in the leaves, the article asserted, though we see them only in the fall. In spring and summer they are masked by chlorophyll’s green. As the production of chlorophyll wanes, the bright, varied colors that were always underneath emerge to glow against the steel grays and robin’s egg blues of an October sky. The writer likened this process to the presence of God in everyone, using it as a metaphor for a kind of true spiritual beauty that all possess, even when it’s not readily apparent.

That’s a lovely idea, and the writer mostly got the science correct: carotenoids, the pigments that produce yellow, orange, and brown, are present in leaves year-round and revealed in autumn; the compounds called anthocyanins that make leaves turn red, however, are manufactured in the fall in response to a combination of light and an abundance of sugars. In any case, the process put me in mind of a slightly different metaphor. Continue reading


Sunset Meditation

As winter winds down and semester’s end winds up, I find myself simultaneously weary and frantic. A few days ago, rushing around making preparations for a conference, I emerged from my local Kroger to a steel blue sky washed with broad streaks of orange cut with yellow slashes. I stopped at the curb and set my grocery bag down to admire and absorb. For a moment I breathed in color and light. Then I reached in my purse for my phone to record the stunning sunset.

Years ago I learned that the myriad colors of sunrises and sunsets are, in fact, a side effect of a more prosaic problem: air pollution. The sky lights up because the light of the setting sun reflects off particles in the atmosphere. Whenever I’ve offered this information unsolicited, others have frowned and accused me of being a downer.

I don’t see it that way. I find it poignant, the dark knowledge of what’s underneath making the sunset before me that much more beautiful. 

Not in a “no pretty without pain” way; I’ve never been one, whether in art or in life, to advocate suffering as an ideal path to appreciating or creating beauty. No–it enhances the experience because it reminds me that beauty, like anything else in this world worth contemplating, is complex. 

Too often, we’re sold a bill of goods: beauty is pure. Simple. Innocent. Its most common cultural icon, after all, is the unlined face of youth. But beauty isn’t simple or innocent. Real beauty is complicated. Layered. Full of richness and depth. It is surprising, even challenging. Not Welch’s grape juice. Fine wine.

In its presence, beauty always already contains the possibility of its absence. For that, it is all the more precious. The breathtaking sunset stops us in our tracks because we are wise to its complexity, wise to its transience. It demands and deserves our full attention now, while it is here before us.

As with beauty, so too with love.

I took one picture of the sunset, then walked to my car. The hot pink line demarcating the black mountains from the deepening blue sky suddenly intensified, glowing a hot, bright coral. I glanced down into my bag to find the phone, but when I looked back up, the high color had already dissipated.

Hold fast. Every moment is fleeting.

On Gratitude and Gay Marriage

I’m a middle-aged fashion model. According to conventional industry standards, I’m neither tall enough, thin enough, nor young enough to qualify as model material, but that’s one of the main reasons I took on the challenge: I wanted, in my own small way, to expand our narrowly defined ideas of what constitutes “beauty.”

I’m no pro, nor do I aspire to be, but I model fairly regularly with a volunteer organization that promotes diversity in fashion and the fashion industry. Back in June, we did a runway show at a local gay bar and dance club to support the launch of a new LGBTQ magazine. As we dressed backstage before the show, one of the other models, “Kesha,” a stunning African-American woman maybe ten or twelve years younger than me, commented on her wedding planning progress. When I told her I’d recently gotten engaged, too, she said, “Congratulations, girl!” gave me a big hug, and noted, “We need to talk.”

After the fashion show, Kesha and I sat in the club’s bar, drinking wine and sharing nuptial details. Her wedding is slated for this coming spring, so she’d already booked her venue, the Patrick Henry ballroom, and chosen bridesmaids’ dresses, floor-length Tiffany-blue gowns. We talked colors, sharing pics back and forth on our phones: her centerpieces, my vases. She’s planning on two dresses: for the ceremony, a fitted mermaid gown with beading and bling; and for the reception, a mini-dress with a frothy full-length tulle overskirt. As we clicked through pictures, one of us spotted a cat on the other’s phone, so we took a detour into trading pet photos. I’d modeled with Kesha for over a year, but this was the first real conversation we’d had. Weddings, it seems, have a way of bringing people together.

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Perfectly Imperfect: Beauty, Brokenness and DIY Decor/Before

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” -Marilyn Monroe

Perhaps one reason I resist aspiring to perfection is my long-time love of vintage and antique goods. Perfection is a shiny veneer, pretty enough to look at, but usually a temporary state—and, frankly, a little boring. Wear and tear tells a story: a little rust lends a venerable charm, a few dings show an object was used and valued, a crooked hand-sewn seam or repair imbues an inanimate linen with tangible humanity. The Online Etymology Dictionary describes the root of “imperfect” as deriving from the “mid-14c., imperfite, from Old French imparfait, from Latin imperfectus ‘unfinished, incomplete’.” All of the imperfect objects in the gallery, above, were found at thrift, consignment, or antique stores, and all will become part of our wedding decor. When I look at them, I see the beauty in their imperfections, and the possibilities in that beauty. They are indeed “unfinished and incomplete,” though my goal is not to “perfect” them, only to highlight their inherent loveliness and enhance it by finding fresh uses for familiar things.

“To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.” – John Ruskin

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