Several weeks ago, relishing the graceful winds of summer’s last warm breath, I went hiking with a few friends to a quiet wooded retreat in the middle of Pennsylvania. The “easy” hike turned out to be short, but rather challenging: after a vertical climb over large rocks (that to me, as an inexperienced hiker, seemed more akin to rock climbing than “hiking”), we reached a small summit next to which was a graceful waterfall. My friends and I stopped and drank in the beauteous scenery, before continuing our vertical ascent to reach the peak (yes, I know; Pennsylvania has no real “mountains”, but this was a trek!).
At the top we sat down on some rocks to enjoy a brief repast of fresh fruit while gazing out over the valley. Trees in bright flames of orange, yellow, and red, dotted the landscape below. Two solitary houses quietly nestled into the midst of the wash of colors were the only man-made structures visible, save for the importunately-placed chain guarding the edge of the path from the waterfall’s precipice.
As the occasion of being in the forest naturally lends oneself to ruminative thoughts, my mind began to wander as we journeyed. Hikers have visited this spot for many years, as it is well appreciated by the local populace. Animals, too, also frequent the area. Pondering upon the subject, I thought to myself that animals, such as deer and birds, while they seek the waterfall as man does, they see it solely as a source of hydration, while man finds there a spiritual hydration.
From the beginnings of time, man has been drawn to beauty. It is one of the things that sets us apart from the animals, as rational beings. What is it about beauty that draws our hearts and our spirits? Why does man insistently seek it out, climb to the tallest peaks, sit and stare at waterfalls, paint pictures of what he sees around him, tell stories of past adventures, lay on his back and gaze at the stars?
Beauty draws our spirit out of itself: from our own eternal inner focus, which is a part of our survival instinct, always checking up on our status, to something greater, something higher. Most often, beauty is something from nature, sometimes it is man’s creation. The smallest drop of dew on a flower, the largest sunset spanning the width of the sky, both bring wonder to our spirits. It is this virtue that comes from the Spirit itself: the gift of Wonder and Awe. Beauty draws the heart and mind to God, and when we look around us, His works are made manifest. “The Heavens are telling the Glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). Rejoice in the beauty that surrounds you, for God has placed it here to bring your spirit joy.
Photo credit: Flickr | Les Halnes