Life and FaithTheology & Spirituality

Is There Beauty in Things Not Seen?

Would a flower of the field still be Beautiful even if no one saw it? This question has followed me to many swaths of alpine tundra this hiking season. I have gazed on lavender thistles, white marsh marigolds, and tiny forget-me-nots amongst a host of other hearty flowers. My hiking companions often set their sights on the cathedral arc of a mountain range, a sun-dappled emerald lake, or towering waterfalls. Whereas, I am enthralled by daubs of colour in every hue, painting slopes and stream beds as we wind upward, always upward. Tiny tufts of moss delight me; so do mushrooms of various shapes—brown, white, and poisonous red. While my friends want a wide angle view from the top of our climb, I am seeking to catch the golden mead of light in a buttercup.

But, no, the dichotomy is not so stark. My breath is drawn away by the soaring heights of snow powdered rock-rims. My eyes burn salty as I watch the footprints of the wind twinkling on the surface of a mountain lake. My friends bend down to frame their photos with tall clover and clusters of yellow-headed flowers, though they are soon lost in the grandeur again. I am being taught to see the bigger picture, to look up from the detail and see the vast whole—making me feel small and a bit frail. I hope I am helping others to see the details that piece together the whole, to see the points that paint the image we behold.

The mountains and lakes I have seen on my array of hikes have long been landmarks, have long looked as they now look. The minute white and purple flowers dotting the springy turf will only last a few days or weeks. They have bloomed on purpose for this season, this day. After they fade, those specific blossoms will never again be seen. Their children will rise up next summer, but this year’s will be gone forever.

On one particular hike, I threaded my way through thickets and early summer snow to see a crop of white marsh marigolds. No other footprints marked the path I took, and I wondered if anyone else would see these lovely little flowers this season. Then I wondered what hordes of flowers existed that no one would see at all this summer. Various wildflowers would bloom in nodding hosts, remote and unseen by human eyes. They would still be beautiful, breathing their fragrance out as an incense of praise to their Creator. They would still dot the land with beauty, even if no eye beheld them. Their beauty would not be wasted, their plant-lives would not be in vain, because they would be blossoming. They would be doing what they were made to do, whether anyone noticed them or not.

Flowers have no cognisance of their purpose, no understanding of being or Beauty. Humans, do, however—we desperately want others to notice our existence, our efforts. Often, we feel like our work—our very selves, even—only have purpose when validated and praised by others. Yet, human beings are worth more than all the flowers covering the surface of the planet. We are valuable before we even start doing anything. Our intellect, looks, and work are not what give us worth or purpose or acceptance. Being fully human, what we were made to be, is our act of praise. Perhaps I should say it is our being of praise to the Creator.

We are given this span of life, ephemeral like the summer’s flowers. We are given now—not the past or the future. We may never do something monumental and lasting for the eyes of future  generations to see. ‘One day…’ may never come when we planned to do this or that, or to be such and such. We have today. We have now. Let us give thanks in this moment. Let us love God now. Let us speak a true word of encouragement, of kindness, today. Not in neglect of the hope of tomorrow and a multitude of tomorrows to come—rather, as a point to live in the present, which builds a foundation for tomorrow and the days to come.

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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