Archive for April, 2013


I forgot to put the tarp away, and morning found a dozen or so little brown birds using it as a bird bath. Last night’s rain had pooled in its folds. For me the big blue tarp had been yesterday’s play, a vehicle for dragging leaves from lawn to curb for city pickup. Now sun’s first rays conspired with daylight’s first cup of brew to warm my hands as the whole happy scene warmed my spirit.

One bird’s coloration set it apart from the others. It was light beige, graduating to a blush of peach that warmed the fat round breast; Colors often visually tease senses other than sight. It fluffed its feathers, a fine adjustment to body temperature. The downy softness mimicked the texture of a Zen watercolor.

It’s exquisite, I thought, so perfectly beautiful! A small tiara of charcoal brown topped the bird’s head, the high chroma flowing down its face, capitulating as a sharp, perfectly sculpted beak. The contrast of textures, colors and shapes spoke to whatever it is in humans that transmogrifies perception of beauty into awe. My exhale breathed a thank you, for an incarnate world so ready to express spirit as joy.

Birdie hopped and pecked, playing with the shards of ice filming the puddles. It approached my window, and in one bold flutter, lit on my windowsill, luminous eyes meeting my gaze. Then, with a cock of its head and a flurry of feathers, it was gone. Is it possible that even such a small creature might recognize and appreciate admiration? The delight of this experience was all over me, a prickling shimmer of gooseflesh. Life often serves up feasts of beauty and then, in fits of bliss and blessing, gives us vision to see and honor them.

I once witnessed such a gift at the Ohio State Fair – a botanical exhibit. It was simply a single perfect white orchid, at the apogee of its bloom, displayed against black velvet. A halogen spot coaxed the flower’s natural luminescence into a glow impossible to summon from any but a living thing. I listened: that flower enunciated purity to me with an unvoiced clarity. This beauty was too great for the sense of sight alone to perceive. I needed to hear, smell and touch it as well. This manifestation I named, “The Beauty that Teaches Love.” It was welcome to my tears – my gift.

Once I witnessed another kind of beauty through the glass wall of a hospital maternity ward. Naked under a yellow lamp, prophylactic against jaundice, the new baby boy lay sleeping on his back, confident of his place in the world, arms thrown back, legs akimbo. My son stood staring at this, his first son, his promise of forever come for a meet and greet. A big red-haired man, tall and well-muscled, with a growing-up history as a star running back, he commanded the scene. His maturation dwarfed what was actually a big newborn. The nurses had hastily draped a hospital gown over Dad’s clothing so he might enter the ward. His shoulders sloped, arms hung flaccid with awe and acceptance that such grace had touched him. He watched a long while, prayers of pride and love unspoken but written on his face. Then he turned and grinned at me through the glass, his eyes a-twinkle but liquid with unshed tears. He mouthed, “Look Mom!” I did indeed look and delighted in what I saw. I loved them both, father and son, completely.

Grief, like love, must be learned. I was getting acquainted with loss when as a five year old, enchanted with the possibilities of drama, I made a casket for my very dead pet turtle and held a reptilian funeral. Mother and I buried him under the willow sapling in our yard so he could live again someday in the life of a great weeping tree. Perhaps we are given small gifts of loss so we can learn to give way to the Great Death, when what is taken from us is what we cannot bear to lose.

Perhaps the only true measure of faith is the grace with which we accept loss, in celebration that we have lived and loved and experienced beauty. In the energy-matter push-pull that creates metaphor from the mystery of the universe, how grand that we are players in this dance of the cosmos! Occasionally we glimpse how incredibly beautiful we are! The far-flung nebulae, that make of the night sky a field of diamonds, are mirrored in infinite microcosm of ever smaller worlds that inhabit the universes of infinite diminution. “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of Glory, Lord of Love!” Beethoven heard, not with his ears full of silence, but with the music of his mind and heart. As a gift to the ages, he captured a stray string of notes and shaped it into the enchantment of his Ninth Symphony. Perhaps the silence was necessary so he could sense the music of the spirit.

With sensing ears, but lacking the deaf master’s musical facility, I heard a melody so lovely that it made all of Heaven’s angels weep. She was my daughter, God’s gifts of life, of love, and then all too soon, of death. Her small life was only a breath in, and a breath out, a single blossom buoyed on the inscrutable tides of Wisdom, which gives and takes but never fails to cherish and fulfill.

Remembering and celebrating
Melanie Ray Taylor
Born October 2, 1960
Died April 11, 1963

Read Full Post »