Tag Archives: Beauty

Courage at Twilight: Beauty for Ashes

Humans are fascinated with fire.  We sit fireside watching the soft flickering lights of the fire’s flames.  We feel the pleasant warmth on our face, and the corresponding cold on our backs.  We relax, we contemplate.  Fire pulls stories from our hearts and memories, imagination from the dark dotted skies.  We feel an unseen palpable connection to the mystery of life and cosmos.  And the next morning we find fire replaced with cold ash.  And what is the nature of ash?  Oxygen and carbon plus heat produces a chemical reaction resulting in water, carbon dioxide, and ash.  I asked my family that Sunday afternoon what ash might symbolize: something burnt up, spent, dirty, ugly; death, destruction, the end, no turning back; cold; releasing, letting go; mourning, grief, and loss; change, transformation, metamorphosis; refinement.  These latter resonated because they are redeeming, like the iridescent shrieking phoenix rising from flame and death and ash.  Ancient Isaiah prophesied of One who would “give beauty for ashes,” not reversing the irrevocable fire reaction, going from ash to beauty, not an exchange of one for the other, not a resurrection of ash back to wood.  But a gift.  Though the world turns everything to ash and dust and rust, there is One who overcame the world, and gives us beauty where only ash is expected.  Beauty for ashes.  As the family gathered that Sunday afternoon, this is what I taught them, this is how I coaxed from them faith, led them to hope, with the idea that the individual’s life of ash is just that, so much ash, but that beauty awaits us both here and beyond.  I handed them each a lidded cup of ash from dried palm fronds I burned that morning, which had fallen from great palm heights onto Jeanette’s back yard, surrounded with orange trees, and I burned the fronds and let them cool, and spooned them into the cups and snapped on the lids, and handed a little cup of ash to each niece and nephew and child, and with that ash invited them to remember Beauty.

(Pictured above, the epitome of beauty, scarlet poppies and other flowers on the grounds of the Mesa Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mesa, Arizona, April 2022.)

Chapter 31: Hurry Up and Play

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–I’m rich!–
(Caleb-3, upon finding two pennies.)

Though running late for work one morning, I felt a determination to take my walk on Rabbit Lane.  Quickening my pace on the crunching gravel, I found myself thinking: If I hurry, maybe I can finish my 30 minute walk in 20 minutes.  The absurdity of my thought struck me instantly.  I chuckled to myself, but could see that my thinking deserved further study.  I might as well have said, If I hurry, maybe I can short-change myselfContinue reading

Open Eyes

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The more I walk on Rabbit Lane, the more I notice the nuanced environment around me, in the hay fields, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the cows.  And with each step I ponder the meaning of things, of what I see and feel.  I begin to understand more about the worlds both without and within myself.

OPEN EYES

when
we open our eyes
the places we walk
will show us
wonderful things
but also hard
heart-wrenching things
beauty and sorrow
sometimes each alone
often all together

Turn to the Gutter

100_1044Walking on a downtown Salt Lake City street during a seminar lunch break, I became aware of how my gaze tended to turn downward on the trash that had collected in the gutter.  The words “trash” and “gutter” are well-known and perhaps over-used metaphors for the vulgar and profane.  I wondered, with some private embarrassment, why I persisted in looking downward instead of lifting my gaze to the trees, birds, architecture, and sky.  I wrote this poem to recognize and resist the temptation to look downward during life, and to encourage myself and others to raise our sights and to focus on beauty, on love, and on kindness and other noble attributes.  The gutter and its trash will still be there, but we need pay them no mind.

TURN TO THE GUTTER

Birds sing a-wing
in the ocean-blue sky,
perch on arched windows
and brick parapets.
Trees waive and bow,
flowers show splendor.
But I:
I turn my gaze, and
miss it;
I turn to the gutter,
treasure
lies and tokens, and
miss it all.

Chapter 9: Witch’s Tree

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–Desire teased spawns vice.–

My boots crunch loudly on Rabbit Lane’s loose gravel.  The noise reverberates in the air and in my brain and distracts me from the peaceful quiet of my surroundings.  I imagine the noise to be similar to that of chewing crisp carrots with tight earphones on.  I find myself wandering within the roadway in search of the path of least noise generation potential.  Part of me doesn’t want to startle the wildlife, which in turn startles me with a sudden rustling of wings or splashing of water.  I also don’t want to interfere with nature’s soft voices.  A bigger part of me simply doesn’t want to draw attention to myself, not even from the animals.  On Rabbit Lane, at least, I can be free of critical eyes and voices.  Still, even here, alone, I instinctively avoid the noise that would bring the attention of looks and whispers in other places. Continue reading

Chapter 8: Tracks in the Snow

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–Wherever I am, I find that the road stretches both ahead and behind.–

From the airport lighthouse shine alternating beams of white and green light, ghostly sweeping columns in the crystalline air against the undersides of low-hanging clouds.  Here, walking in this desert, I imagine a lighthouse perched on a craggy rock cliff, overlooking ocean waves beating themselves in ferocious crashes against the rock, and ships with trimmed sails rocking, taking on water, close to sinking, with frantic, frightened sailors looking to the light as to a savior, the only thing in the world they can cling to, trust in. Continue reading

Silent Spring

As I walked along Rabbit Lane in the dark of early morning, I could hear only the distant hum of thousands of cars commuting to the Salt Lake valley.  The birds and crickets still slept.  The air hung still and silent over field and pasture.  I pondered Rachel Carson’s fearsome prediction in 1962 of a future where the wanton use of chemical poisons would wipe out the world’s singing, croaking, and buzzing creatures.  With a touch of irony, or sarcasm, I penned this poem, a mixture of hope and foreboding.  Visit the Rabbit Lane: Memoir page of this blog to read more about places of peace and hope, and to ponder how you can contribute to the world’s beauty and diversity.

SILENT SPRING

Spring,
Rachel:
not silent quite.
I hear,
distinctly:
the growing hum
of humankind.


Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.