Recommitting to Beauty
Onset Bay, image by me
Recently, I’ve Begun Again, selling the house in OR and moving back to MA, about two hours from where I was born in Onset, MA. I was incredibly amused to learn that “Onset was developed in the 1880s as a summer camp meeting for Spiritualists. Many of the existing cottages in Onset were built as second homes for individuals from Boston, Taunton, Brockton and other northeastern cities who gathered to hear mediums communicate with the dead. While it was run by the Spiritualists, the village was known as Onset Bay Grove.”
I was back there, recently for the Cape Verdean Festival, with my mother and I went to the shore to ponder “My Great Work”. Starting again will make you do that, and I was encouraged by an exercise in Deborah Castellano’s Glamour Magic wherein, one enters the wild and sits there past the boredom and distraction in order to uncover their next Great Work.
As I did, I discovered that vague and seemingly unhelpful information I always uncover, “I want to live a Beautiful Life.” Not only have I known this since I was a child who was obsessed with whether or not things were beautiful or pretty enough, at this point in my adult life I’m frustrated with “How” (notice my answer wasn’t “become a florist” or “see more ballet”…) but also as I search for my next job “Who will pay for this?”.
As Living Beautifully is my Life’s Great Work, I have to decide how to achieve that in a hostile society that doesn’t see beauty as an important necessity, the way I do, and doesn’t even see my Afro-Latina self as beautiful, and in some cases worthy. Great horrors are visited upon all of us every day, I don’t deny that, I even do what I can to address them.
I do not however, allow them to get in the way of Living as Beautifully as possible. Nothing is perfect and some days are undeniably bland or ugly, but here are some ways that you can achieve your healing and recovery and personal aesthetic, that are affordable and doable, even as you sign petitions and call your ancestors to help you handle this legislation.
Decide what is Important and Healing for You
For me it’s Beauty, I can’t define Beauty for you, but I know it when I see it, I know it when I feel it.
I quite literally am refreshed and revived after walking through a garden. That’s my jam. I love flowers and get them as many ways as I can. Whether that be in a garden, watching them bloom in a video, wearing them as jewelry, wearing them as a print or a perfume, taking flower essences, or meditating with a plant. None of these things cost very much, a floral top will often cost as much as a plain top of the same style, and they make me happy. It’s about effort and self care. I may be writing my legislators, I may be currently unemployed, I may be hexing, but doing these things in a garden or wearing pretty things makes me feel better than if I were wearing sweats and yesterday’s mascara.
Escapism Helps Us Refuel
Plan escapes carefully.
Curate your allies.
Find a poem, a song, write a story, find a story, create a Pinterest Board, of uplifting things that you can call on when you’re having a wretched day. Escaping into your “Desired Future” via pinterest, a world you want to live in that’s been carefully created by you, can do a world of good. Performing a self blessing can remind you that you are sacred, you’re important, and spirits are on your side.
Natalie Merchant writes songs I want to live in, I imagine myself surrounded by so many wonderful people that I’m moved to write a song of gratitude, a’la “Kind and Generous”. Tori Amos helps me feel less lonely in my rage and myriad emotions and Bjork is so ridiculous and inspiring, I sometimes need the irreverence to lighten up.
Theodora Goss, Angela Carter, Anais Nin, Alice Hoffman, Francesca Lia Block~have all rescued me from this world when I’ve needed to get away.
Renee Magnusson gets it, and has helped me to develop more “Devil may care” with my “joie de vivre”.
Find or create your muses.
Who has the grace, charm, or sass that you admire? Buffy? Sabrina? Dean Winchester? Josephine Baker? Frida Kahlo? James Bond? The “What Not To Wear” style gurus, Stacy and Clinton? Endora?
Make a list of the qualities that you believe they have and then figure out how to enhance them in yourself. If you admire Buffy’s ability to fight, find a self defense class. Appreciate “Chocolat’s” Vianne, played by Juliette Binoche? Learn a fancy chocolate recipe, share it with your friends. Adore a friend’s grace and charm? Read Kelly Williams Brown’s Gracious.
Can’t decide? Create a Servitor. I created a Bon Vivant based on “Sabrina” (the film, not the Teenage Witch) and “La Dolce Vita” and “La Vie en Rose” which by the way, is *not* seeing the world through colored glasses, as many would have you believe- it’s actually “a state of bliss wherein everything around you delights you” which is exactly what a garden gives me. Her job is to lead me to delightful things, no matter what.
Which is the point of this entire life, make it beautiful, no matter what.
The Atlantic on the Beauty/Happiness connection
The work of Renee Magnusson
The work of Deborah Castellano