Monday, February 6, 2012

Wooed by the Not-Beautiful

The following is from Mike Beck, Navarre, Florida. He took the photo above during a week spent with three others at Carmanah Valley, part of the vast clear-cut area of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

The wounded places of the earth are great teachers, releasing us from the predicament of choices. They also have the ability to ruthlessly strip away your perfectly unfounded bias for ephemeral beauty and rip the words “ugly,” “unsightly” and “unattractive” right out of your mouth.

My first experience with attending to a wounded place was one of sadness at the grotesqueness of a clear-cut old-growth forest, followed almost immediately by free-floating anger, without adequate tools to catch it and ground it in reality. A perfectly reasonable response for a person without access at the time to what Mary Oliver calls the “heart’s little mind.” Four short days later, with the stump-studded hills and debris-strewn fields disappearing in the review mirror, I was surprised at the tug to go back: “Don’t leave, not yet, just a little longer.” 

Where had the grotesque gone and why were the barren hillsides passing from view unfathomably, wonderfully and perfectly—“not beautiful?” The only explanation I still find satisfactory is that someone had come while I was sitting quietly in the clear-cut one of those days and staring at an eagle-head shaped stump and that “someone” had rearranged all the environmental furniture in my head, graciously taking away my sense of quilt at not being able to do something big to save the natural world. 

An unfortunate side effect of that hooligan’s shenanigans is that now, I’m forever being wooed by the “not beautiful.”