Finding Beauty in Challenging Times

This last month has presented us all with many upheavals and challenges – social, financial, emotional; the physical time away from our Waldorf family. It also has brought some surprising silver linings: an ancestral call to bread baking (store shelves emptied of yeast and flour…who would have guessed?); a new form of Victory Garden is flourishing and nurseries are selling out of vegetable and herb plants; more time for family puzzles and art projects or even to simply enjoy a budding tree outside our front doors; the opportunity to witness musicians, painters and performers (including some in our own community – we see you!) – many sidelined from tours, classes and live audiences – sharing their gifts live on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Live-streamed opera for free, virtual museum tours, viral posts of quarantined Italians singing together from their balconies at dusk. The well-ordered machine that is our human existence abruptly ground to a halt during COVID-19. It has been scary at times. And yet, beauty and art find a way to thrive.

Did anyone else take advantage of the two-for-one special on the MasterClass series? I sure did. My 8th grade son is currently watching Ron Finley’s MasterClass on gardening.

Ron Finley is a self-described “Gangsta Gardener” and community activist who teaches that a garden can be grown in virtually any space, by anyone. He hails from South Central Los Angeles and has pioneered several community gardens there. In the video, he is not surrounded by fancy pots and fertilizers. He is instead seen drilling holes into the bottom of an old dresser drawer, which in any other scenario would have been headed for a landfill. He fills it with soil and plants and it is completely transformed.

He is what you could call a “beauty hunter.” Author Jennifer Pastiloff, in her book, On Being Human, coined this term to describe “the active process of looking for beauty,” in things we might typically take for granted: “Look, listen and tell the truth, and the beauty will be there,” she says. Noted another favorite author of mine, Cheryl Strayed, quoting her deceased mother in her book, Wild: “There’s always a sunrise and a sunset, and it’s up to you to choose to be there for it. Put yourself in the way of beauty.”

Beauty is no surface concept. It’s an ideal discussed often by Waldorf school founder Rudolf Steiner. Beauty feeds and nurtures our senses and our souls. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It informs our artistic endeavors, wakes us in the night with whispered new ideas, inspires scientific discoveries through dedicated observation. If we do not see beauty in our immediate field of vision, then we must seek it out. It might be closer than we imagined. What was previously unseen to us becomes visible when we change our perception.

Waldorf education has, by the nature of its unfolding, infused beauty into the lives of our children, our families, our faculty and staff on a daily basis. Thanks to our teachers and the loving participation of our Waldorf community, this infusion will continue to flow remotely until we can all physically embrace each other once again. We will continue to seek beauty, and we will allow it to find us.

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