May is a veritable unveiling and unfurling of beauty. Fickle, inconstant April has tripped along her merry way, and the earth, now awakened, continues to work her quiet, inexorable magic.
There is wonder in the very air we breathe. Yes, we are required to weed and plant and water if we want an abundance of the earth’s bounties. Yet we really have nothing to do with the process at all. Without any help, buds still appear along brittle brown branches. The delicate green tips of flowers push through the debris of winter and the greedy spreading of grass or weeds. Blossoms somehow follow buds — soft rains scour both the soil and the air above it — and nothing is withheld.
As Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."
Beauty. We are in need of what beauty can give us after the shrinking cold, the sometimes bitter struggle of winter. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof certainly embraces the fullness of beauty.
Do we notice? Oh, yes, if we go on holiday to some exotic place removed from our own, we are going with eyes peeled for what we might find. Yet, the everyday stands before us in all its glory, and we notice the tricycle left in the driveway, the trash cans not put away as we fumble for the keys to open the car and be on our way.
Beauty is not meant to feed us only during isolated moments in isolated places. Rachel Carson in "Silent Spring" said: "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after winter."
We tend to dismiss the power and grandeur of natural beauty. Charles Lindbergh, whose experience and understanding were above the ordinary, wrote: "In wilderness I sense the miracle of life — and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia."
The scriptures contain more references to beauty than we might think. In Ecclesiastes we are told that the Lord "hath made every thing beautiful in his time" (see Ecclesiates 3:11). The heavens are called beautiful, the Lord is called beautiful, the beauty of old men with gray hairs, and young maidens like Rachel is recognized and praised. I like the passage from 1 Chronicles, "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
Beauty, after all, is a need of the human soul. We are born with it. We bring it from a world of love, beauty and order that we were required to leave behind, yet truly "trailing clouds of glory" do we come (see William Wordsworth's "Ode On Intimations of Immortality").
"The nearer we get to God," Elder Douglas Callister, who served in the Quorum of the Seventy until 2009, said in the BYU Magazine, winter 2007, "the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there."
Brigham Young, on the same theme, wrote: "We are trying to be the image of those who live in heaven; we are trying to pattern after them." Then Elder Callister quotes the 13th Article of Faith, which encourages us to seek after the lovely as well as the virtuous and good.
Since beauty feeds our spirits, it has power to cleanse us from the world and renew the spiritual within us — increasing our desires for all that is uplifting and pure. Being tuned in to beauty helps to create a state of beauty within.
There is so much that is discordant and unbeautiful in the world to divert and distract us. Let Mother Earth do her marvelous work. Let us see the hand of God, the hand of the Creator, in the eternal, perfect patterns of beauty that were created to lift up the hearts of his children and make them glad. Beauty is certainly one of our Heavenly Father’s ways of blessing and strengthening us. And beauty expanded, based on faith and gentleness, brings a harmony into our lives that enhances our very existence.
We do not need money nor time, nor extraordinary experiences in order to obtain beauty. We need only to open our eyes and see. As the poet John Keats expressed it: "The poetry of the earth is never dead."
Spring is an ideal time for us to draw beauty into our hearts, to drink in renewal, to feel the tingling, child-like sensations of delight over "little things."
Brother Brigham reminds us: "God is the Supreme Architect. We owe all our inspiration, our love of beauty to the Father in Heaven who gives to his children what they ask for, and what they need" (see "The Best of Brigham Young," p. 26).
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com.