It was dark, but the air was clean and the evening was fresh. As we sat on a rickety wooden bench beside the moonlit lake, I began speaking candidly with my boyfriend about an old friendship. It was one that had been so enriching and challenging, but had since been made rusty by the mere effects of passing time and lack of effort. As I expressed my regret for the state of this broken friendship, he reminded me of the truth about brokenness: that we are rightly saddened by it because it’s unnatural and points at imperfection.
At the end of an hour-long conversation about faith, purpose, friendship and remorse, we sat in silence for a moment. Finally, he gestured at the scene in front of us – the foggy but moonlit sky over the murky but quiet lake – and said, “It sounds like you are kind of feeling this.”
And there it was, in all of its messiness. Looking out, I saw everything that I was feeling without even being able to put words to it. I appreciated this moment in all of its honesty, because it was altogether ambiguous and precise. It was more truthful than my words could be.
Sometimes, you find yourself in the right place at the right time during the right conversation. The scene fits the mood and compliments the topic of discussion. Your surroundings have been painted on the landscape of your narrative to represent the words that you cannot express that are written and known deep inside of you.
From joy to sorrow and excitement to fear, we encounter a variety of different emotions depending on the physical place in which we find ourselves. Entering a doctor’s office for an examination may cause you great anxiety, while sitting in your grandmother’s living room could make you feel peaceful or nostalgic. Simply visiting an old classroom where you took a very difficult or demanding class may be stressful, while entering the gym where you made the winning basket fills you with pride and adrenaline. You are the same person every place you go, but a combination of aesthetics, associations, memories, and circumstances makes each place affect you differently.
There’s a certain kind of peace that comes from recognizing intention and significance in your surroundings.
Although there may be times when we are unable to describe how we are feeling or why, we can feel understood when we say things like, “you know, that feeling you get when you are waiting to see the doctor?” or “remember how we felt when we were standing on the top of the Grand Canyon?” As much as it pains me to admit this, there are in fact some things that words simply cannot express. This is where visual art comes in.
Whether you express yourself through painting, drawing, singing, or writing, you become comfortable in your own form of expression until something unexpected causes you to recognize beauty in another context. If I gave paper and a pencil to each person in a classroom and simply instructed them all to use that paper and pencil to “tell me about themselves,” the variety of responses would likely be astounding. Some would draw a picture. Some would write a paragraph. Some would make origami. The possibilities would be endless and each person (even the ones who don’t consider themselves “artistic”) would create something unique.
The more appreciative we are of different forms of art, the more opportunities we will have to encounter beauty. The moment by the lake that I described earlier caught me by surprise because the idea of considering my thoughts in visuals was completely foreign to me. But even as somebody who thinks in words, the honest beauty of that moment gave me pause.
My encouragement to you is this: allow yourself to expand your concept of beauty by expecting to encounter it wherever you go. There should be at least a handful of moments in life that words can’t quite capture. Choose to treasure those moments.
Have you had a moment like this? What did it mean to you?
Image via Caitlin Colcolough