Surprising Beauty

The lamp is burning low upon my table top.
The snow is softly falling.
The air is still within the silence of my room.
I hear your voice softly calling.
If I could only have you near to breathe a sigh or two,
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love on this winter night with you.

A couple of weeks ago in church, I was struck by the beauty of one of our elders. She is not a conventional beauty. Her curly hair is graying, her face a tangle of fine lines and wrinkles, and her hands showing her age in similar fashion, but her eyes are bright, her mind as alert as ever. In the moment, however, she was as beautiful to me, with her fierce love of this church community mixed with a kind of innate graciousness that cannot be taught, but that some women are apparently born with, as any Hollywood starlet ever could be.

The faint tones of an east coast youth color this woman’s voice, and even though she is nothing like my grandmother in appearance, I felt my grandmother hovering softly by me as she spoke, and had to close my eyes and accept the feeling of being watched over before I could return to being completely present in the moment.

I cannot capture with mere words the apparent softness of her cheek, or the way her hand gripped the microphone with such surety. My grandmother’s hands, though gnarled at the end, were just as sure every time she brushed away my tears, wrapped my hand in hers, or gripped her own communication device: a wooden spoon.

This moment was just another assurance from the universe that I’m where I’m supposed to be right now, and it came when I wasn’t looking for it, in a splash of surprising beauty followed by the still, cool pool of inner peace, and while it faded rapidly, as such moments tend to do, I treasure its resonance and carry it in my heart.

The fire is dying now. My lamp is growing dim.
The shades of night are lifting.
The morning light steals across my windowpane,
where webs of snow are drifting
If I could only have you near to breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love, and to be once again with with you.

*Lyrics taken from “Song for a Winter’s Night” by Sarah McLachlan.

holidailies 2009

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Surprising Beauty by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.