In the Way of Beauty
In the beginning of August, I ventured outside what I know to be comfortable, taking a road trip from California to Arizona to Utah, and back. I needed to be moved again; to be at a loss for words because of what was beautiful, not unsettling. I was seeking a connection to the world that I once celebrated as a kid, one that I felt safe and inspired by – and now, not so much. As I drove up the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I was in a daze from spending hours in the car, tuned out (as I have felt most days), when I suddenly could see the deepest colors of orange and pink pouring over the grandiose rock formations of the Grand Canyon. I quickly pulled over to watch the sunset disappear, only to find myself awe-struck with tears, and they weren’t stopping. I was in my most vulnerable state – tired, dissociated, and despondent – when I felt a sudden glimpse of the beauty my life had been lacking for so long.
Growing up in Marin County can feel as if you are trapped inside a bubble within a bubble. As a twenty-two year old college student, the weight of being at home – during a pandemic, an election, protests, civil unrest – can feel that much heavier than usual. It’s the pressure of the unknown, when will life start to feel a little more normal again, will ethics and morality overcome the presidential office, will equity and equality ever be seen throughout our world, and when will we see more lives celebrated than mourn those that have been lost? If life feels at a standstill in the midst of chaos, what is there to appreciate?
As I crossed various state borders and hiked many miles of different national parks, I started to feel less completely discouraged, and more like myself. Walking in the midst of hundreds of years of history, where many before us have journeyed, it felt as if I was in the middle of nature’s church – places that are sacred, profound, and thought-provoking.
We constantly go through the motions of our everyday life without stopping to watch a sunset, or shed a vulnerable tear in the wake of something profound. One of my favorite books, Wild, written by Cheryl Strayed, says one of the most important pieces of advice she received from her mother before she passed was, “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there or not. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”
Throughout my trip, I chose to put myself in the way of beauty, to appreciate something larger in a world where there is a universal loss of hope. I was compelled by the outdoors, and inspired by what it reminded me.