Thursday, January 27, 2011


I don't dwell on the topic of beauty over-much, but I do notice it now and then in a striking sunset or a perfect warm breeze. As often as not I find myself arrested by its absence rather than having some heart-wrenchingly gorgeous scene laid at my feet. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the times I stop short because of something I find ugly or repulsive it is due to decisions another person made. Usually I can only guess at the motivation for the decision to create something I find ugly - lack of time, lack of money, restrictions of the State, or most fundamental of all - a lack of care. With enough heart in it the first three factors can in many instances be surmounted.

Rather than delve into examples of ugliness, I'd prefer to share one of my small attempts to create beauty. I believe there is something to the idea of an "archetypal landscape" that breathes a sense of belonging into the human soul. The biologist E.O. Wilson's 'biophilia' incorporates aspects of it, and there are now replicated pschyological studies that demonstrate a landscape that is "most attractive" across all cultures. An occasionally treed grassland is that landscape. The African savanna is a classic example and other images can be seen here (scroll down a little to see images).

And here is a photo of me standing under some Hawthorne trees that I've pruned up. It probably would have been just as fast, or maybe faster, to cut the trees all the way down and push this little corner of scrubby pasture into pure grass. But that would have been less beautiful, and it would have sacrificed the beneficial aspects of trees in a pasture, which included tapping deeper sources of minerals than grasses can reach, shade for ruminants, and wind breaking during cold weather.

This spot is not currently fenced so I don't have cows up here and won't for a little while yet. In the coming years though I look forward to their assistance in shaping these trees into a form I find even more lovely than they now appear.

Finally, no, it is not lost on me that this is one of the less beautiful photos posted to this blog... ;)


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