Last summer our family (my husband, Dave, our teenage son, and I) took a month-long road trip through the United States as part of Dave’s pastoral sabbatical. We made a loop from our home in Northern California through the Southwest to Kentucky and back through the Midwest, visiting family and friends and eleven national parks and monuments along the way. We ate regional foods — fresh-picked peaches from a roadside stand in Fredericksburg, Texas and deep-fried pickle chips in Memphis, Tennessee. We listened to local music — brass bands and zydeco in New Orleans and blues in Memphis.
We paid attention to ‘beauty emergencies,’ a term coined by poet Maggie Smith to describe a natural event happening now; if you don’t look up, you’ll miss it. Like a sunset shifting the Grand Canyon’s cliffs from bright orange to dusky purple. Like elk mamas and babies bugling to one another as they migrated through our campsite. Like a bald eagle swooping low over a Montana river.
We took about a gazillion pictures that I still haven’t waded through to create a photo book. Considering I’m woefully behind in creating my son’s baby book, it may never happen. For now, the pictures remain on my phone and social media, and I flip through them occasionally to soak in the refreshment of natural beauty and joyful memories.
One picture, in particular, is so inconsequential I would delete it except for the memory it evokes. It features ordinary, delicate wildflowers, some yellow, others pink with a ruffle of petals so pale they’re almost white, backdropped by tall green grass. The camera focused on the smallest petal tips, resulting in a photo mostly out of focus. We won’t frame and display it, and still, it’s a keeper.
More than midway through our trip, we had stopped outside Mount Rushmore National Memorial to take a selfie with the park sign, like we had done at every national site we visited. We stretched our legs while we waited for another group to take their pictures. Just as they finished the wildflowers caught my attention, a sprinkling of colorful confetti. I snapped a quick picture of the tiny petals before we meandered over to the sign.
We took our selfie, another giggle-eliciting photo, our son making a face as he squint-strained against the harsh sun reflecting through his eyeglasses. As we returned to our car, one of the women from the other group dashed ahead of us. Like I had done minutes earlier, she squatted down to capture a picture of the flowers. Standing straight again, she smiled timidly and remarked, “I noticed you taking pictures. Thought I’d take one, too.”
I had noticed seemingly insignificant beauty, she noticed me noticing, and it influenced her actions. The experience became a potent reminder that others see what we do and how we live. We know that parents model behavior for their children who begin learning almost immediately after they take their first breaths. But others are watching us too. Family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers also take note of our lives.
Without saying a word, we may attract or repel someone to us, and ultimately to God, through what we do.
It reminds me of Paul writing to the Philippians when he urges them to “…become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16 NIV). While I prefer to think of friends and neighbors not as “warped and crooked” but as God’s beloveds who may not have responded to His love yet, still I long to shine among them like the stars in the sky. Only by God’s grace am I blameless and pure while I hold firmly to the word of life. I hold firmly to the One who called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I long for others to catch glimpses of His wonder when they look at my life.
We spent the last night of our trip camping outside Ketchum, Idaho, where the stars shone remarkably bright. We saw stars in constellations and the swirl of galaxies. We stayed up late staring into the night sky, feeling grateful. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t at least glance at the stars on a clear night. Noticing beauty points us to the Artist who created that beauty. God created each one of us in His beautiful image and He has given us a great big beautiful world in which to live.
I relish the task of living a beautiful life as I seek and share beauty that may lead someone to Love.
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Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Siv thank you for what you wrote today. What you said to do with our beauty and the beautiful world or Lord has given us to live in. We are all beautiful in God’s eyes us women. But Man as the saying looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the beautiful heart we have as women who are followers of his. As my Salvation Army Officer who used to work in Enniskillen Salvation Army not away to another Church 84 miles away in Belfast. Said to us at our TLC group for women. TLC stands for Tender Loving Care. We are all us women Daughter’s of the king and that king is Jesus. Jesus does not look at our outward appearance he looks at our hearts. How true that is. Jesus loves no matter what we look like even if we have any blemishes on our face. How lovely this is to know. Man says and the magazine’s say you have to look like this or this to be beautiful to the world. Women of the world some of them try to be like the women in the magazine’s. To be accepted in our world by other women. They try going on this diet and this diet or getting sergury or botox or buying this makeup to look well or this cream to look good. Spending money they don’t need to buy. To look as the world would have you look. All most of them are gimts in my eyes. The averts to try and sell there products to convince you to buy them. That they do what they are money racks in my eyes. I think to myself would God want me to buy them and spend his money on them to try and make myself more beautiful. When God made in the way I am. All that matters is what God says about me. Not the so call world. As God just loves me the way I am. This saying is so true. We should all take it on board as I feel this what God wants us to do and feel as it says. It goes “I am Me I don’t pretend to be like everyone else. I don’t want to be like everyone one else. And I have a God who loves me the way I am and for who I am. So I going to not change who I am just fit in” how true that. If we want we can look up on YouTube the Father’s Love Letter. Just type thoes word in on YouTube we will then really are how much our Heavenly Father loves us. A we are his deer Children no matter what race or skin colour. Another saying is that so true “BEAUTIFUL has nothing to with looks. It’s how you are as a person and how you make other feel and love them as God loves you. ” So true as well. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little keeping you all in prayer
Thanks for your comment, Dawn. Praying for you!
Pearl Allard says
Thanks, Pearl. Praying you will notice beauty today.
Laura Revelos says
Enjoyed reading this lovely piece, Siv. Such a perfect reminder to take in all the beauty—big and small—that surrounds us and give special thanks to the Artist who created it all.
Thanks for reading, friend! I’m grateful for the beauty your friendship adds to my life & our community.
Caroline Wood says
This is a remarkable story! Thank you, Siv, for going public with it! I am grateful because I may never get to make this kind of trip.
Hi Caroline, thanks for reading! Last summer’s road trip was truly special in every way … & I’m so grateful we live in a town filled with beauty.
Beth Williams says
People are watching our actions. They want to see us shining God’s light & love to this sin darkened world. We need to pay attention to our words & actions daily. We must also slow down long enough to enjoy this big beautiful world God has gifted us with. Look at the marvelous Smoky Mountains, See the exquisite sunrises & sunsets. Notice wildflowers & other plants growing & showing off their splendor. Look at the beauty surrounding you daily both in nature & other people.
Sounds like we’re singing the same song. Blessings to you!