truth and beauty

I’m slowly reading Anne Patchett’s Truth and Beauty right now. There’s a line when she explains, “Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” It made me smile as that’s pretty much a summary of this space for me – all of those things – a job, a talent, and a diary that works like an imaginary friend with a cup of tea. It’s cold and rainy here today, and I am dumping some thoughts in this space to shed a little warmth.

Jude stayed with his father last Thursday and Friday night because of a student holiday on Friday, so I only had Norah for part of this weekend. I decided to indulge us in a visit to a spot that resides deep in my childhood memories.

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UntitledIt’s sometimes disappointing to head back to a place you remember as magical – only to see it as less shimmery as an adult. But to watch your daughter experience it and be enthralled makes up for it. Babyland General is a Georgia staple, but without the nostalgia and place in my own personal history, it might feel more like an overblown gift shop. But last Friday, as we drove northward toward the mountains and found it perched at the end of a long driveway in the Georgia fall sun, it seemed pretty magical.  We crossed the big covered porch to step into the foyer and sign the guest book. Within ten minutes, Norah had locked eyes with one particular doll she chose to name “Molly Lou.” An hour or two later, we left with Molly Lou, her adoption certificate, and one very happy three-year-old.
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On the way back, we stopped at Mountain Fresh Creamery for an ice cream and a place to stretch our legs.  These moments – these little seconds – why do kids give them their proper praise and we neglect to see the magic? Fall air and mountains in the distance and homemade ice cream. For just a minute, I took it all in. We are fools for not seeing the extraordinary sometimes. I’m working hard at this lately, letting my jaded nature fall away a bit to stop thinking ahead to the next thing and just breathe in these simple magic seconds. Tiny pieces of paradise given to me in the real world.

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I’ve babbled on and on before about my love of John Keats, and the Keats poem that Anne Patchett’s title references ends with the famous line “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Keats, of course, was dying of tuberculosis at only 24 and is said to have grown up knowing he’d die young. So much of his poetry is about the role of art and beauty and how they are the only link to immortality, the only real things in this temporary existence.

I think about this a lot lately. What is truth and how my version of “truth” in my story is different from others’ perceptions of me perhaps. We all see the world in our own ways, and none of us wear the same lenses. My kids will see these years with their own eyes, too.

Being human is a weird thing. On the one hand, we are not the same – no two of us alike. In this way, it seems there is no universal truth when it comes to seeing the world around us and living in our own skin. I’m getting better at leaving room for this and exhaling my need for control, knowing that I cannot determine someone else’s perceptions, and they cannot control mine. It’s my own skin I’m living in, my own story I’m writing. And you have yours.

But yet there are some truths that emerge for all of us, I think. The awareness felt in moments of stillness if you’re willing to sit with yourself without distraction. The soft response of your own heart that you sometimes have to strain really hard to hear. The tangible strings between a mother and her kids. The persistent effort life makes to reward you when you embrace the real and the authentic and stop clutching so hard at your identity. It’s all there when I take the time to see it.

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