“Hot and Bothered About Beauty,” in THE WEEKLINGS

THIS MORNING I took a walk down my valley road. Fall is coming to a close: the cornflower blue sky, the final few yellow leaves shaking in the wind, dried up bits blowing into the stream. Here we go.

Even from within my body’s subtle bracing of what’s to come—another long, sad winter in the Catskills—I craved the open sound and texture of the woods, which softened the dread and, what do you know, made me happy. I guess you could call it beauty—that lilting pleasure to be had in the form of things, the way something reaches back and sees you standing there.  My favorite poet Anne Sexton said, “Once I was beautiful. Now I am myself.” I would say that beauty is what makes me feel like myself: Food, bodies, trees, words, my little blue house, friends, clothes, the perfect glass of red wine, lining my body up with an on-coming tennis ball, zazen. Watching people drive their cars around a corner in the mall parking lot, having their thoughts. All these humans beings pulling these crazy human stunts. Nutty. Beautiful.

So what is it about the way loveliness abounds these days that just feels so….icky? I mean, why shouldn’t pixied girls from San Francisco sell their homemade aprons on Etsy? What’s the matter with artisanal pickles? There’s nothing inherently bad about handsome young bucks wearing old man shoes, or urban intellectuals raising chickens, and I think little birds’ nests are neat, too, and sepia-crinkled photos with hints of turquoise are very soothing, and it’s true that room vignettes of apparently disparate objects (say, a horse statue, a bean-filled mason jar, and a vintage walkman) in a person’s house can feel so….harmonious….and online pantry porn gets me totally hot, and it’s like, wow, how does that beautiful, homeschooling woman with the vintage clothes and the intriguing bearded husband and the kids and the dynamite website about how she is dressing said kids do anything at all besides futz with her….situation? Like, is she a real person? And how do all these foodies not…get…fat?

Those are the things I really want to know. That, and why all this bounty of the things I love makes my skin crawl.

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