The following piece was a submission for my #5mostbeautifulthings contest last June. The idea being that we walk around actively looking for beauty, and then, share our findings with the world. Okay, by world I mean the world of social media. But still. It’s a beautiful exercise which truly opens the channel for, not only creativity, but for life itself, because what else is there really, besides paying attention?
Elizabeth Crane Brandt is a beloved American author and, most recently, my pen pal. Yes, you read correctly. Real. Life. Letters. Gasp!
She has a tremendous ability to weave words right into your heart and to leave a little something there: a scarf, or note, an imprint of love.
five most beautiful things today (which is not yesterday or tomorrow)
1) My dog’s snout and paws. This will have to be one thing. Very often they are seen together. After seven years, it only just dawned on me that I take pictures of these two parts of him just about every day. It may seem at first glance like these pictures are largely similar, but if there weren’t nuances, I’m sure I wouldn’t keep doing it. The snout and paws of today are not the snout and paws of yesterday; today is not yesterday, tomorrow isn’t today, and what if, after he’s gone, I didn’t have all these daily photos to look at from the beginning? Maybe I’m writing the story of my dog, one snout and paws photo at a time. More will be revealed. Snout and paws. One beautiful thing.
2) My dad’s old barn that just fell down. I can’t. Even. It just happened yesterday; I found out this morning. I feel like I may as well be under that very pile of boards right now. We’ve known it was coming, there was a hole in the roof the size of a bathtub, but that barn was a symbol of everything beautiful about my childhood, and there was more than plenty representing what wasn’t. (Google: NYC 1960s-70s and I promise one of the first three choices will have ‘gritty’ or ‘dangerous’ in it. There was plenty of beauty there too, but the danger went a long way to canceling that out for me when I was six and eight.) (Also: cross-reference item # 1 here, as regards number of photos taken/subtle nuances – I do not live in Iowa, but I have taken countless photos on each trip I’ve made there, and I am, now that the barn is partway to the ground, gladder than ever that I did. Though I’d kind of just like to have it put back the way it was, if requests are being taken. Not the deal, I know, but I’m in the denial phase of grief.)
3) The piles of letters and emails my dad wrote me over the years from the time I was about eight (parents divorced, Dad lived in Iowa, we lived in NY), encouraging me to be a writer, telling me what a great daughter I was.
4) The sky out the window of our little Brooklyn apartment. There are some buildings below that sky that I could take or leave, as well an old smokestack (were I given a magic set of paints, I would take out the two taller buildings behind the smokestack but leave the smokestack in, I would leave the rusty sloped roof of the old church in front of the smokestack, which is nicely framed on either side by a street full of trees that are lush from the rain we’ve been having all week, and then I would also maybe erase at least the top floor of building directly across the street, and/or paint in a family counselor for the parents in the window across the way who are relentlessly yelling at their beautiful little boy who obviously just doesn’t want to go to church this week). The fact remains: you can see a whole bunch of sky from the sofa. It’s good all times of day. It’s good in the morning with the first cup of coffee and at dusk (we face west) it’s a whole bunch of those gorgeously moody dusk-time colors that make me feel like everything crummy is going down with the sun, that it’s all getting reset, that the world is good and right.
5) How my husband looks at me. It’s everything. It would be pointless to try to describe it, but somebody looks at you like this, they must, and if they don’t today, they will tomorrow, I’m sure of it.
Also, although I swore I would never do another contest, I should stop swearing), I am. This one is themed #iHaveDoneLove.
Follow me on instagram at @jenpastiloff for details. It will involve pictures (why I chose Instagram as the platform) as well as writing. My favorites. You can win a spot at my next retreat over New Years in Ojai, California. The hashtag will be #iHaveDoneLove
At the end of your life, when you say one final “What have I done?” let your answer be: I have done love.
Thanks Elizabeth. You did. Love, that is.