The view that awaited us when we arrived at our rental house in Carolina beach this past week was beyond our expectations: Waves were madly crashing on shore, their white foam proudly painting the sand beneath them in a primal, rhythmic stroke, while small formations of seagulls and pelicans gracefully glided in the salty air, the brilliant colors of their plumage creating a stark contrast to the deeply blue hue of the sky.
Every morning when I woke up, I was thrilled to get out of bed and savor a bit more of the breathtaking scene. Coffee mug in one hand and a good novel in the other, I would sit there until the rest of my family woke up. Some mornings I even got up early enough to see the newborn sunrise in the east.
A week later, it was time to leave our corner of Paradise and head back home.
This morning, when I shook myself from the delightful grip of slumber, I thought for a moment that I was still in Carolina Beach. Then, as the needle of reality quickly pierced through the cloth of consciousness, and I realized I was back home, my eagerness to get out of bed diminished by the minute. I wearily made my way down the stairs and peaked out through the glass pane of the front door, on my way to the kitchen to get coffee.
No sound of crashing waves this morning, no calls from seagulls, or children squealing on the beach; the only call I heard was that of my cat, indignantly meowing at the back door, waiting to be fed. Ditto for the visual: all I could see was my neighbor’s house, which, as beautiful and well maintained as it is, is certainly no match to a roaring ocean.
I took my coffee outside on the porch and sat on one of the rocking chairs, wishing I could turn back time. Then, I noticed two small birds sitting side by side on a tree branch, their colorful lemon feathers breaking the monotony of the green leaves; and I noticed a butterfly stopping on one of my flowerpots. All of a sudden, I realized the subtle beauty surrounding me. I took a sip of my coffee and smiled when my cat, tired of waiting by the back door, came around to the front porch and was now rubbing against my legs, purring softly. Maybe my quiet yard is not blessed with the raw charm of an ocean scene, but it is beautiful just the same.
I thought of all the beauty, which surrounds us at all, times, the beauty that we don’t notice.
Sadly, we have been programmed to think that beauty is something that we have to travel far to see, or something that has a price tag attached. We rarely notice that some of the most beautiful things are free and abundant, if only we are willing to see them. True beauty is not in the engineered perfection of a plastic doll made in Hollywood; it is not only in the expensive flower bouquet we purchase at a florist’s fancy store.
True beauty is the smile of a stranger; is the wild flower growing on the side of the freeway; is the less-than-perfect art project of a child who worked as hard as he could to create a small masterpiece for his mother.
All we need to do is allow ourselves to open our eyes to the myriad of magnificent displays of beauty and perfection that subtly color our day from the sidelines. As the soft fur of my cat gently tickles my feet, and the gentle breeze coming from the open window softly broadcasts the nocturnal song of the nearby woods while I sit here writing, I know I am thrilled to be back home.