This 6th post of the series was originally published on Airstream.com
- The 1st post is Beauty, Our Retirement Un-Plan
- The 2nd post is Making Room for Play
- The 3rd post is The Road, Home
- The 4th post is Blips and Bubbles
- The 5th post is RX: Forever Camping
- The 6th and final post is Beautiful World, Beautiful Country, Beautiful Life
Posted February 5, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
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“Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty,
back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash,
not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.”
She always said it in threes, with a soft Italian accent, “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.” First, she’d gasp, Ah!,” and then slowly, “Bee-yoo-tee-fuuul, …” with a little squeak on the yoo part.
Forty years ago, I figured her for a centenarian, but looking back from the mature side of my life, she was probably a healthy seventy-five to eighty-year-old.
She wore sturdy shoes and a thick black coat which even on hot days was buttoned up to the neck. Her corneas ran low on blue, yet her vision was sharp and her movements spry. Every day, around mid-morning, she walked into our bookstore and went directly for the spinning wire rack of scenic photo cards.
Tenderly, she would slide a card out of its slot. With her right hand she raised it aloft until her spine arched back. I supposed this was to cut the fluorescent light glare glancing off the high gloss paper. Then, in guileless wonder she pressed the fingers of her left hand upright against her lips, considering this miracle. Then she slowly shook her head, “No!”, incredulous as the hand over her mouth dropped to her side and she uttered, “Ah! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”
Her pilgrimage through the spinning rack continued: a waterfall flowing through a confetti of Autumn color; a Rocky Mountain Spring thunderstorm brewing in the distance; a verdant Idaho prairie lush with wildflowers and butterflies; a snow-covered alpine forest where a majestic twelve-point buck paused, watchful, in the snow.
After fifteen to twenty minutes she walked out, triggering the doorbell and sporting the satisfied smile of an experienced traveler striking a prized destination off the ol’ bucket list.
We called her The Beautiful Lady.
We gathered that she lived on the next block, a resident of the convent. When employees heard the first “Ah, Beautiful …” we all jostled for position to find something to do – take inventory, dust, stock – any reason at to be within the glow of her round-the-world journey. No complaint, problem or bad mood could survive her feel-good energy. She was a tonic.
I don’t recall our favorite customer ever purchasing a greeting card.
I think about The Beautiful Lady as we travel with Beauty and The Beast, our Airstream travel trailer and Ram truck. Like the cards in the rack, most places we visit are curated – selected, protected. Designated, beautiful. The Beauty Queens of America.
The recreational opportunities we enjoy would not be possible without a host of government offices. Thousands of behind-the-scenes staff make themselves invisible as we stand in awe before the majesty of Nature. With our National Park Senior Pass, admission is free.
Whether The Beautiful Lady’s love for the natural world was grounded in her past travels or the absence thereof, I cannot say. All I know is that she was transported through the gift of imaginative power and she took us along for the ride.
For careful observers, there are no accidents, no chance meetings, only messages. To me, The Beautiful Lady was a guide.
There are Wanderers. There are Belongers.
Not all Wanderers are mobile and not all Belongers are stationary. We remember the days when travel was impossible for us. Now, as Jim and I continue to travel – without a home like a rolling stone – these last seven years of Forever Camping has raised our awareness of how gentle this Earth is with all of us regardless of how we choose to live.
Every night we have a place to rest. In return, we go easy on our home planet. We have nothing to give to her in return, so we reduce our usage. The day we began Living in Beauty our carbon footprint reduced by half and continues downward. All it takes is a little imagination.
The Beautiful Lady showed us how to perceive the world with joy, gratitude and respect. Sure, we encounter difficulties – things break, we get sick, the weather turns. And then – by chance or more often through the kindness of strangers – solutions arise to address each problem. When confronted with the majesty of this planet, the little things lose their power to bring us to our knees.
Most of our older relatives, now gone, never travelled great distances. The framed prints mounted on their walls – a Japanese garden, a New Mexico canyon, a tropical paradise with cockatoos – were probably places they never saw but held in their hearts.
Jim and I travel for them and maybe we travel for you, too. Bringing stories and images of nature from our home to yours is a testimony of love for our common home, Earth, and an homage to a path you may never walk, or a memory of a place you may never visit again.
One day, it may be scientifically proven that respect and reverence for Earth (and compassion for one another) is dramatically increased when, from a spaceship, we observe our home planet orbiting the Sun, as our Moon orbits Earth.
Okay, I’ll buy that seeing the face of God may cure the tunnel vision of the human species, but cosmological order demands polar-opposites. The Alexander The Greats and Diogenes of the world will always clash. Diogenes threw cold water on Alexander’s generous mood when he told the self-deified sun god to “Step aside and stop blocking my light.”
I confess to being a bit of a Luddite. Sure I appreciate a good space launch if it makes the world a better place for all. But watching the Sun set and the Moon rise and the frothing star-juice overload from a Dark Sky Preserve while Earth hurtles through space at 64,000 mph – that’s all the rush I need.
It’s all sacred.
In our travels we’ve not seen a bad country, lousy state or no-good city any more than we’ve seen a bum star in the Milky Way. Unique cultures, geography and ecosystems in urban, suburban, countryside and wilderness areas illuminate The Road and tie it all together. As candlelight plays in the facets of a gemstone, approaching the world from a different angle increases the vibrancy.
Life is a pilgrimage. Wear good shoes. Bring a warm coat. Make room for an open heart. Be overcome with emotion. Shout or whisper to all who will hear, “We live in splendor!”
The more we look around the more we see, and the stronger we hear the call to caretake – and not only for the curated and scenic places which we pass through like a museum – but also for the places where we once lived, and the places where we may someday live, and the places we shall never set foot upon.
Many of our family members, friends and Living In Beauty followers tell us that we travel for them and live a dream they cannot. We take this travel by proxy quite seriously – it increases our joy and expands our sense of purpose and the possibility of a better future for all.
So, if you like, come along with us. There’s enough to share.
These are the lessons I take from The Beautiful Lady.
When I step off the trodden path to behold a natural wonder, I think of her spinning through the rack of cards in ecstatic wonder. In those moments I gasp, place my hand over my mouth and then drop it to my side and proclaim, “Ah! Beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful!
This is the final installment of our series, From Beauty’s Doorstep