Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts by 'Eat, Pray, Love' writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, called 'Magic Lessons', in association with her latest book, 'Big Magic'. (Her podcasts are actually one of the main inspirations behind motivating me to start this blog). In one of the episodes of the podcast, she talks about a term her friend, (I think it was Glennon Doyle of Momastery.com), who had coined the term, "brutiful", referring to the beauty and brutality of this world and how sometimes those two opposites are present together in one simultaneous image or event.
Here is my experience of how I came across an example of what is “brutiful”in my world.
Rarely have I encountered an image in my life which I think is a perfect metaphor for the way I feel. But this week, this image captured it.
Each day I get home from work, and occasionally I have to go out to the “bins” (aka, the garbage, compost and recycling bins). (“Bins” is a term familiar for me after spending four years abroad living in England.) So, I go out to throw something away, retrieve something, or roll the “bins” back in/take them out to and from the curb, etc.
This week when I walked out, I encountered something different.
There were Lilies growing near the trash bins and I was suddenly stopped in my tracks. Completely awestruck by their beauty. I knew they were there because I’d seen them blossom the year before. As I recall they only bloom once, maybe twice a year. I’d recently been on a trip for an extended period of time and so I’d missed when they first began to sprout at this time of year, but my husband had told me about them, so I knew to look out for them on my next trip out to the “bins”.
When I saw them for the first time, their visual beauty literally stopped me in my tracks. I paused and took special attention to study everything about them.
Their glorious pink is what particularly caught my eye, then it was their perfect shape, their length and posture, perfectly aligned and standing at attention, charging forward from the earth but with an effortless delicacy and grace that could not be seen. I smiled to myself at that moment, in the recognition of their striking beauty.
And then a wave of sadness washed over me. I thought to myself, “They’re growing next to the bins!” “Who the hell is going to see them back here?” “Why on earth are they growing here of all places?” “And we haven’t watered them, how are they blooming?” “Are they getting enough of what they need – sunlight, water, nourishment, …love?”
And then it dawned on me. I tear up thinking about it now. They don’t need those things. I mean yes, sure - logically and practically, yes, they need all those things to technically survive. But that’s not actually why they’re here standing in front of me in all their glory.
Truly, they’ve bloomed for themselves. They’ve bloomed for the universe and nature and all that surrounds them. They’ve bloomed in spite of not having all those other perfect circumstances and conditions. They just are… They’re perfectly beautiful and radiant and luminous, without anybody witnessing it. And it doesn’t matter to them that they’re hidden, or in darkness most of the time, or near the stinky trash bins, crammed between two houses where they’ll never get to be fully appreciated. They’re just here, doing their thing.
The blooms will last for the two or three weeks of their life span and then as effortlessly and gracefully as they came into existence, they’ll fade away.
It’s all so perfect. What a perfect metaphor for life.
And yet, I can’t help thinking how unfair it all is. These beautiful creatures with so much to share with the world, with so much potential, with so much character and life, are hidden, masked away, with no one to appreciate them fully. With no one to take in their true beauty, except for the little bit of nature surrounding them…and the trash bins…and my husband when he takes the trash out…a few stray cats in the neighborhood…and me…
And yet, now reflecting back on my experience, I feel and know that that is exactly what they are here for. For me. So that I can witness. So that I can tell and share the story of their life with all of you. So that for one moment, we stop everything...to pause, and to appreciate what creation has brought forth, despite there not being trumpets and alarm bells to champion their arrival and existence.
And just as they began, they’ll fade away, only to return in a few months’ time…or perhaps not. After all, there are no guarantees.
In being witness to all this, I can’t help but compare their existence to my own life. I’m here. I have so much potential, so much bottled up inside me that I want to share with the world, but am I doing that? Am I truly blooming in all my power and radiance for all the world to see? And if I am blooming, is anyone there to witness it? Or am I like these beautiful, courageous, shy flowers…not being seen, hidden from view, crammed between the rest of life and humanity that is far more interesting and attention grabbing?
Where exactly are each of us in this place we call life? And how can we stop to recognize the beauty, power and strength in others, even if it means we have to get closer to the stinky trash bins or duck behind the side of the house to really see them? How can we become better witnesses in our own lives?