LeAnne Martin
Beauty and the Beholder

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bathed in Beauty

“We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

For me, like many people, the beauty of creation opens my eyes to the Creator. While working late one August night, I glanced out my office window and caught a glimpse of the most beautiful sunset I'd seen all summer. Slipping on my sandals, I ran outside and stood in my front yard, staring up in wonder. My house sat at the top of a steep hill so my view was unobstructed. No neighbors walked down the street; no cars passed by. It was just me with this spectacular sight. My heart soared. Lavish streaks of pink and orange filled the darkening sky. Glancing down at my arms, I saw that same pinkish glow on my skin, as though I was being bathed in color and beauty from the heavens. The symphony of colors slowly rose to crescendo, then softened and faded away. For a brief moment—a moment that can hardly be put into words—I felt as though I was part of the beauty above me. I did not want it to end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mary Cassatt and Lullabies

Years ago, when my friend found out I was going to have a baby, she gave me a copy of A Child’s Book of Lullabies, with paintings by Mary Cassatt. A tall, thin, pale yellow hardback, the book is filled with some of the artist’s most beloved oils and pastels. In college, I liked Cassatt’s paintings for their subject matter as well as their beauty. Through her work, she brought validity and importance to the role of women in the home by depicting them reading, working, and caring for children.

Long after my college days, as a mother-to-be, I looked at Cassatt’s paintings with new eyes, especially noting the intimacy and tenderness between the mothers and children. Anticipating the joy of holding and feeding my own baby, I could almost see us in those paintings.

The book, an early favorite of my daughter’s, brought about one of her first experiences with art and music. As a toddler, she would pull the book off her shelf, bring it over, and snuggle up with me, either on the floor or in the rocking chair. We would go slowly through the book, page by page. She looked at it carefully and pointed to the music. I sang the songs and talked about what we saw in the paintings.

Now six years later, my daughter still takes the book off her shelf and looks at periodically. She also uses it as a lap desk when she’s drawing pictures of her own, writing stories, or both. I wonder if when she looks at those paintings, she remembers the times in her little yellow room when we gazed and sang and snuggled. Maybe, maybe not. But I won’t forget them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seeking Beauty

Years ago, as I struggled through an extremely painful time of my life, I began to seek out beauty whenever I could. I couldn’t articulate it then, but on some level I realized that beauty brought me comfort and drew me closer to God. So, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, I went to the museum, the theater, and the symphony. I browsed antique stores, gift shops, and arts’ festival booths. I listened to music that touched my soul and made my spirit dance. I reveled in the arrival of spring after a long, dark winter. And, as I watched my energetic toddler grow into a preschooler full of exuberance and dimply smiles, I marveled at the beauty of the creation of man.

I also discovered anew that the written word can carry inestimable beauty, particularly when it is scripture. Words I had read much of my life now became a precious treasure I held close to my heart: promises from the Lord, the lover of my soul. A phrase like “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1) paints a beautiful word picture of my dependence on God—a truth I began to understand more fully during that time in my life.

The classic works of great writers spoke to my heart as well. In the title sermon from The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis wrote, “We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” His words helped me to understand my own desire for beauty as well as to articulate my experience.

This blog is one avenue I’m using to articulate what I believe is everyone’s desire for beauty. If you have an experience with beauty that you’d like to share, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me at contact@leannebenfieldmartin.com.

An excerpt from my article that appeared in Indeed magazine, September/October 2006.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Welcome to Beauty and the Beholder

One morning after breakfast last week, I stood in my kitchen in my thickest, furriest robe and slippers and still felt a chill. At 20 degrees, it was unseasonably cold for our area (that is to say, it actually felt like winter). Knowing I had a full day ahead at my computer, I stopped first to look at the view from the picture window. Several small birds, a flaming red cardinal, and a squatty squirrel gathered food from under the trees and shrubs. They didn’t seem cold at all—just perky. And pecky.

The grass in our front yard, lush and green a few months ago, now looks tan, sometimes even gray. Dull. A light overnight frost had turned it prickly, and something glinted in the sun. What was that? I pressed my nose to the glass like a little kid and squinted like a 40-something: there were several small and shiny blue things lying in the grass. The frost crystals were capturing the early morning sun like prisms, and the result was tiny circles of blue light, probably 15 or 20 of them. They looked like diamonds shining on that blanket of dormant grass. Gorgeous. With the sun’s movement and climbing temperatures, surely this scene wouldn’t be there long. And if I hadn’t stopped to look out the window, I would have missed it.

I think God gives us diamonds all the time but we miss them. We’re distracted by our own busyness. We don’t expect to see (and therefore don't look for) diamonds in the mundane. But they are there; beauty is there. We just have to open our eyes, our ears and our minds to receive and enjoy it.

That’s what this blog is about: the beauty around us. My posts--on Wednesdays and occasionally Fridays--will be about beauty in creation, in the arts, wherever we find it, including those moments in our lives that make us stop and gasp, that make us feel more alive and grateful for the experience.

Like I did last week.

Home | About | Articles | Speaking | Links | Contact | FAQ
Blogs: Christians in the Arts | Beauty and the Beholder

Copyright 2007 LeAnne Martin. Site designed by ChurchGraphics.org