365 Days of Beauty

Your Invitation to Find Beauty in the Everyday, Week 4

Week 4 of 365 Days of Beauty comes late to you. When I started this project, I knew there would be challenges. Well, the reason for the delay in week 4 was our beautiful anniversary staycation. The reasons for the delay in the following weeks, as you will find out, were not so beautiful. Anyway, here’s week 4 of 365 Days of Beauty — sharing the beauty in my every day with you and inviting you to stop long enough to see the beauty in yours.

Day 21 — Divine Nectar 2

The morning of our 17th wedding anniversary was clear and crisp — very unlike our first, which was hot and sticky. The climate has changed in the years we’ve been married.

Ours has been a marriage of travels. A dream come true to me because I wanted to see the world and I had the best companion to do with it — the driving force behind it actually, organizing extensive trips in the days before Trip Advisor, when information wasn’t so readily available on the internet. Together we had travelled to about 40 countries — he, almost double that.

My memories this morning took me to December 2011, a traditional restaurant in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Along with our sumptuous lunch of grilled meats, my husband and I had wine from artisanal terracotta tumblers. The wine was divine — non-branded, from a family vineyard in an Armenian village, so we couldn’t buy any bottles to bring home.

I had learned in my first wine tasting class in Bordeaux, France, in the summer of 2006 that “although it is difficult today to accurately date the appearance of the first cultivated vines, Transcaucasia (Georgia and Armenia) would appear to be the birthplace of ancient viticulture.” (From The Guide to Bordeaux Wine, Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin du Bordeaux)

It made sense that this elusive wine tasted like the nectar of the gods and I referred to it as such, until we went to Georgia — the country, not the American state — in the summer of 2016 where every wine experience was a revelation.

We were having lunch in a small cafe in what was a ski resort town in the winter, Bakuriani, a day trip from the Borjomi and Kharagauli Natural Park, where we were staying. We were the only diners. Summers there were understandably quiet. I don’t remember what we had for lunch — although everything we ate in Georgia was mouthwatering, even a simple bowl of greens. What we both remember with sharp clarity was the wine. We took a sip and we couldn’t contain our enthusiasm for having stumbled upon this sublime experience. We just couldn’t believe the sensation every time we took a sip — it was a thing of exquisite and rare beauty, incomparable to any other wine we’d had.

We absolutely had to take some home. We asked if it were possible and the waiter said he’d see what he could do. We ate our lunch, had dessert, and waited some. The waiter finally informed us that they couldn’t really figure out how to sell it to us because they bring it from a vineyard in barrels and serve it out of reusable bottles. Again — a divine wine with no brand. We asked him to at least tell us the grape variety. He wrote it on a piece of paper, which I have used as a bookmark since then.

I looked for that piece of paper this morning and found it. I remembered the grape variety having a spelling I couldn’t pronounce. This nectar of the gods deserved better from me. I should at least know how to pronounce it. I looked it up — and learnt so much more about this beautiful wine from that summer in 2016. And it took my breath away.

Usaxelauri, pronounced /usɑxɛlɑuri/ means the “nameless” one — or “beyond words” and “priceless”. Mindblown. Wikipedia says it’s because the “grapes are scarce” and grown on a limited amount of land. Wiktionary says it “refers to the exceptional quality of the wine, which was said to be so exquisite that no name could do it justice.” Once again: mindblown.

It gave me so much joy to have started the morning of our 17th wedding anniversary learning this happy information about a beautiful experience we had had in Georgia 4 years ago.

Day 22Sunset Opera

We headed out in the afternoon, right after work. Destination: Staycation!

We were celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary at a beach resort. The first time we had left the city since lockdown in March and we were both excited.

Just as soon as we’d checked in, we headed to the beach, it would be sunset soon. It was a long, pristine stretch and we went for a long, leisurely swim — working up an appetite for dinner.

It was heartwarming to see families with children, couples, and small groups of friends enjoying themselves — while maintaining social distancing.

The sea was calm and deep. Its surface shimmered as the sun approached the horizon, the rays bouncing playfully against the gentle ripples. Then one of them jumped out of the water and glided right past us. A flying fish! Breathtaking.

Our star sank deeper and deeper into the distant sea, its goodbye a majestic opera — an orchestra of bellflower, lavender and iris, playing alongside an aria of peony, and joined by a chorus of cherry blossom, hyacinth, and orchid. It reminded me of a friend who’d join us with her son on our weekly beach afternoons before she returned home to Florida some years ago. She would say that in the Key West, they’d applaud the sun for its spectacular performance at dusk. And I applauded.

Day 23 — Morning Music

Early morning. Perfect. The quiet was a resplendent divinity, an elemental essence. The beach an uninterrupted expanse, caressed by the breeze. It brought with it the invigorating salty scent of the sea. It twirled with the birds and played with the water, so that together they made the soft song of the sea. It flirted with the palm fronds and together they danced, sultry and slow.

An overload of beauty.

Day 24Goodbye Embrace

On this last morning of our staycation I was embraced by the expansive solitude. An invisible world must have been in celebration because there was an ethereal aliveness vibrated in the world manifested around me.

The sea sparkled; its gentle cerulean ripples, waving goodbye.

Day 25 — Holiday Quietude

Quietude this holiday morning. There were less cars on the road and the languor that came with an open day and no plans. I soaked in the ability to just be. To take long, slow breaths until I was the world and the world was me.

Later while driving, I saw a fleeting blue take flight. The kingfisher bird. An unexpected burst of natural beauty in this urban environment.

Day 26 Bear and Butterfly Love

I enjoy creating for children. I write for them. I story tell. I create shows — children’s theater and theater in education, which play at our festival then tour schools. I have a large collection of children’s literature in my library and this morning I read an Arabic translation of The Bear and the Butterfly (Beer is op Vlinder) by Dutch author Annemarie van Haeringen. What a beautiful way to start the day! Watercolors, oil pastels, pen and ink, and collage come together to make captivating illustrations that tell a story of love, nearly missed. A profound learning in the guise of a story so simple a child can understand.

Day 27 — Trees and Tartines

I walked into a morning that had already started. Greeted by the sound of birds before I saw them flit before me. A beautiful, gentle morning, the sounds of urban activity faint for now, and the crisp weather a glorious symphony rising to the vast azure above.

Later while driving, I continued listening to film maker Josh Tickell on Audible reading his book Kiss the Ground. It is about soil, our impact on it over the millennia, the domino effect this impact has on the ecology of our planet, and what we can do to work with nature to ameliorate the fast deteriorating conditions of our fertile planet. I love this book and every time I listen, I think, ‘I am not doing this justice listening to it.’ It’s because I want to note down what he says then share it. Share it, share it, share it. Shout it from the rooftops.

I was in Chapter 9 and Tickell was recounting his meeting with Tony, a native American chief from the Lakota, whose tribal name was Charging Eagle of the Oglala Lakota of the Seven Council Fires, and Tony said something that resonated with me deeply — something that I think about all the time and that he voiced perfectly in the context of his culture and heritage.

“We didn’t see ourselves as above animals or below animals. We were just here with them. We became a part of that bigger system of life. The circle of life. When I talk about my ancestors, they lived in a period when you could actually drink from the rivers. You could actually eat what was caught in the rivers. You could actually gather berries. And everything came from nature. Everything was part of this bigger circle.”

The author adds, “Tony says that this ancestral way of being is in direct contrast to what he calls our accumulation culture. ‘When you’re born and raised in what I call the accumulation culture, you lose sight of the bigger picture because when you start to accumulate, you tend to forget what is important and what matters, shifts, and you become separate. And the more you become separate, the unhappier you are going to become. Accumulation is like an addiction. There is this need to want more and more and more. There is no satisfaction. You want to earn. You want more material things. And once you have more material things, you’re going to want more. There is no end to that.’

Tony tells me that our wars, our destruction of natural resources, and our degradation of the land and climate all come down to our misplaced priority on the accumulation of material things, and the resulting separation we have from the natural world — it’s all part of this illness, this addiction that prevents us from being sustainable.”

I know many of us think of this. Some of us make our daily choices based on our awareness of it, some of us have made it our life mission to find a solution for these challenges — and it is going to take all of us beating that drum, sounding that bell, consistently, ceaselessly, to progress toward a deeper understanding of and appreciation for deep ecology, which Wikipedia defines as the “ environmental philosophy which promotes the inherent worth of all living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus the restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas.” I see this as the only way for human societies to live with nature more harmoniously and become a part of it again.

My day ended with love, for I saw a friend I hadn’t seen for many long months, and over tasty tartines, sweet treats, and rose spiced dark hot chocolate, we caught up and laughed about perimenopause. She gifted me a magnificent bouquet of flowers, it was like a lush garden I could hold in in my arms.

“Why!” I exclaimed.

“Belated birthday, happy anniversary, happy seeing you again…”

And I took that beauty — love manifest — home with me and put it in a vase, and as I drifted off to oblivion I thought, ‘If we can extend our love, if we see trees as our limbs, we wouldn’t be so hasty in chopping them off…’

I hope you have had time to stop and observe the beauty in your everyday.

See you in the next installment of 365 Days of Beauty.

Sharing my appetite for life with you.