I recently spent a week in Charleston, South Carolina, making my temporary home in what I now consider one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed– a national historic landmark called Middleton Place. Everyday from the moment I woke up and looked out the wall of windows into the treetops of the towering live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, I felt awed by the beauty surrounding me. In my mind, the live oak is the epitome of beauty but it got me wondering about beauty and especially, of other people’s definitions of beauty.
What is beauty? What is it that makes someone or something beautiful?
Everyone knows what a shell collector is… what about a beauty collector? This is what I consider myself, when I’m outside with my camera and looking at the world around me, regardless of my specific location on Earth. I could be in my own backyard or hundreds of miles away from my home in a place I’ve never been, or one I’ve been to hundreds of times.
I relish the challenge of looking around and finding what I consider the “gems” –that is, those large or tiny pieces that when removed from the whole can stand alone and inspire the majority of people who look at them to recognize the beauty.
There was a special beach I visited twice during my week in Charleston, a beach only crowded with dead and forgotten trees and washed up seashells. The trees had long since lost their bark and most were lying like discarded bones on the white sand. Amazingly, some were still standing, their limbs outstretched in a way that made me think of children dancing. When the sun rose behind them, bathing the sky in a fiery orange light, I imagined that they never looked more beautiful. Would others look at those same trees in the light of a regular day and see beauty? Would the trees evoke a joyful or somber mood?
Another day I visited what I would have considered a magical place had I been there alone. Called the Angel Oak, it is a magnificent live oak that is just a stone’s throw from the edge of a small country road on John’s Island. From tip to tip its gnarled branches stretch 187 feet across and its fern and moss-covered trunk reaches 66 feet into the sky. The canopy of this 500+ year old tree provides 17,200 square feet of shade! Wow. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. Did others visiting it see it the same way? As something beautiful? Or were they simply inspired by its old age?
What is beauty to you? Have you “collected” any beautiful moments lately?