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Once There Was Beauty

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Once upon a time beauty bloomed inside Effie’s mind as she planned the best design for the edging that would trim the sheets and pillowcases needed to complete her dowry. She often hurried to finish the farm chores to allow time to complete a few extra inches of lace before bedtime.  After each harvest, she eagerly counted out her coins, hoping on the next trip to town to buy more linen to make hand towels and napkins to monogram during the winter.

All was finished and packed away in a separate wooden trunk by the time she climbed into the family’s wagon to be driven to Simmons College for her teaching degree. When things got tough at school, she comforted herself with daydreams about using the beautiful things carefully folded and waiting in her hope chest. After graduation, she moved to the territory of New Mexico to start her new life as a single woman teaching school in what became Lea County. Every month, she bought a few pieces of  delicate, hand painted fine china to add to her dowry. And she kept it all under lock and key for safety’s sake.

After she married, they decided to build only a very small frame house to live in temporarily because they were living as simply as possible while getting the sheep ranch and small farm started. All of these precious linens and good china would be used in the new house – the real house they would build after proving the claim and after they had more money.  But right now, they were just getting by.

Especially with growing children though, every year the nice house seemed to be further and further down the road. Occasionally Effie would open the trunk to look again at the lovely things they would use some day and show them to her three girls, provided they washed their hands before touching any of the treasures. Their big eyes drank in the glory of delicate hand painted tea cups and they begged to use them right now – today.

But cautious Effie always said,  “No, not until we build the new house; these things are just too nice to use here. But then, we’ll use them every day and especially when we have company come over for dinner.”

But one Sunday, when the oldest girl was eight and the youngest a toddler, before the new house was built,  they returned home after church to a smoldering  pile of ashes. No one knows how the fire started or even when. They were grateful that the wind had not spread it to the corrals, so none of the livestock was lost. The windmill was still pumping water from under the ground, but no one had been there to use it to put out the fire.

Of course none of them had ever gotten to use the beautiful things that had been made with such generosity and such anticipation of the delight of sharing beauty with the people you love most of all.

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Share whatever beautiful things you have with everyone you love while both are still with you. Each of us needs all the beauty we can get from mundane tools neatly arranged to a marvelous view of our own back yard to a table set neatly in a quiet house to encourage conversation during the shared meal. Thus we build real memories instead of trying to live in air castles.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Greek Philosophers on The Value of Music

 

It’s obvious to all that music is influential:
* Who hasn’t wept at the strains of “Danny Boy” or “Taps?”
* Brass bands playing marches energize every audience.
* “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” has stirred people to action since 1861.
* “The Star Spangled Banner” rouses even tepid Americans as they recall the men who voluntarily gave up their lives to hold the flag a loft all during the night battle to convince the British fleet that “our flag was still there” despite hours of targeted shelling.
* New Orleans jazz evokes the bitter-sweet aspects of everyone’s life.
* Since radios became popular, each generation of young adults has fallen in love with the kind assistance of “Moon Glow,” “In the Mood,” “Wonderful Tonight,” “She’s Always A Woman to Me,” or “Thinking Out Loud.”

Five to seven hundred years after David used music to calm King Saul’s fits of insanity , the Greek philosophers opined that music education was necessary for young students in order to train them to control and direct their passions in order to live worthy lives.

A recent paper* by Dr. Thomas R. Lawson of St. Anselm College in New Hampshire illustrates their ideas: “Socrates claims that a good musical formation “tunes” a man, so to speak, so things that are truly good (as judged by reason), cause him sensual delight, whereas bad things (again, as judged by reason) cause him pain, disgust, or some other appropriate negative emotional or visceral response:
      “Furthermore, it is sovereign because the man properly reared on rhythm and harmony would have the sharpest sense for what’s been left out and what isn’t a fine product of craft or   what isn’t a fine product of nature. And, due to his having the right kind of dislikes, he would praise the fine things; and, taking pleasure in them and receiving them into his soul, he would be reared on them and become a gentleman. He would blame and hate the ugly in the right way while he’s still young, before he’s able to grasp reasonable speech.”

So, 2500 years ago, the Greeks considered music education as a method of instilling moral values and helping their children develop into the best version of themselves. Our advances in technology have made music readily available to almost every one, not just the wealthy. Following Socrates’ and Plato’s lead, today earnest young parents play classical music recordings to their babies while still in the womb, but the idea is the same.

*http://www.anselm.edu/Documents/Institute%20for%20Saint%20Anselm%20Studies/Spring%202016/Man_Music_Catholic%20Culture.pdf

© Copyright by Kaye Fairweather 2017

Are War Movies Beautiful?

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While re-creating the fear and uncertainty that the English and French forces faced during the 1940 Dunkirk rescue, hardly elicits cries of “beautiful movie,” there is something admirable in the 2017 hit, Dunkirk. It’s not beauty of form so much as it is beauty of attitude portrayed by most of the men involved.

After 77 years, very few adults today even remember the story and fewer still have read about it. Dunkirk represented a severe loss for allied troops; thus even the World War II historians appear to have forgotten to mention it.

For those of us with fond memories of the grandfathers, fathers, and uncles who were members of The Greatest Generation, the movie reestablishes their “can-do” attitude as a beacon of light for us and for our children. Few men relished either the war or the Dunkirk project, but soldier and civilian alike performed diligently anyway – simply because it needed to be done. Would that we all will aspire to their example of selflessness.

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Since I saw the movie, I’ve read a couple of reviews about all that it left out. Frankly, I disagree. It was, after all, a world war involving many countries, many notables, many armies, navies, and air forces, and many, many stories of valor, as well as cowardice. I think they were wise to concentrate on only one thing – survival and rescue in June 1940. If I had the money to back a movie, I’d concentrate on the civilians who used their fishing boats to liberate over 300,000 men in a few days. And then there are all the other battles and other leaders who still have not been covered adequately either in book or movie.

I will say that at times during the movie, I wished for a flow chart or something to keep up with characters who kept appearing in different scenes. I don’t know if that is my own deficiency or if it were planned that way to make viewers want to see it again. I do want to see it again in a few weeks because I’m sure that I’ll get even more out of it the second time around.

In the meantime, I will read the book upon which it is based: Dunkirk by Joshua Levine. As I’ve said for years, “The book is always better.”

Things The Grandchildren Should Know

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“Life is so full of unpredictable beauty and strange surprises. Sometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you.”

Mark Oliver Everett, Things The Grandchildren Should Know

F. Scott Fitzgerald on Beautiful Women

 

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

PS: These are two easily available photos that I think illustrate Fitzgerald’s idea of a beautiful woman. I invite anyone who reads this to add their own pics of women who fit his guidelines with a comment.

Never Lose An Opportunity for Beauty

 

Contrary to current American culture, beauty is not a carefully photo-shopped image of an attractive young woman designed to sell a product or a concept. No, beauty is far more than mere image or presentation. And it certainly exceeds the boundaries of our print and electronic media.

I define beauty as that which delights, inspires, and enriches. Anything less is a shallow imitation or perverse contradiction of the honesty inherent in beauty, whatever form it takes.

For beauty does exist in many forms, such as:
Visual
Aural
Natural
Crafted
Movement
Stillness
Spontaneous
Arranged

We who live at today’s frenetic pace must allow ourselves to notice the beauty we walk in every day. It could be a picture, a musical selection, a memory, a person, an activity, or a location. If we stop to remember, there are thousands of those precious flashbacks that can still enrich our lives today.

When you read this blog, please take a couple of minutes to share a portion of beauty that you’ve encountered. Sharing will improve both of our lives and become a thing of beauty for all of us.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll start.

Because I wanted my four children to be adept at physical activities that could be part of their lives through out adulthood, I signed them up for swimming, tennis, and golf lessons. In the process, I signed myself up for getting them to swim practice before and after classes during the school year and hours of watching from a damp bleacher.

When my oldest was about 13, she developed beautiful strokes in the American crawl, back stroke and breast stroke. If cell phone video cameras had been available then, I would share with you an example of swim laps that resemble ballet. While the rest of the group splashed eagerly back and forth in their lanes, she glided as if she were created for the purpose of creating beauty out of daily swim practices.

She certainly didn’t inherit any athletic talent from either parent. In fact, we are amazed that she belongs to us. The coach did not give her extra instruction. But all who watched were delighted to observe such unpretentious beauty in action.

She still swims. And participates in the Low Country Splash! every spring which is either a 2.4 or 5.0 mile open water swim near Mt. Pleasant, SC.