“Beauty awakens the soul to act.”Dante Alighieri
Beauty is boundless in nature. From the countless clusters of stars that create the constellations scattered across the dark sky to the multitude of meaningful, microscopic members that mingle and maneuver through the massive, magical world under our feet. Beauty is almost an effortless feeling or emotion to experience in nature, but often it is the most elusive to embrace within ourselves. In so much of modern culture, humans have been persuaded to perceive beauty selectively through purposeless parameters, insurmountable standards, exorbitant expectations, and phony filters. Of the infinite species on our planet, there are none that are incontestably insignificant. Each organism is shaped from the same elements, strung together to create the mishmash of macromolecules and other substantial substances that weave together in a unique pattern to fashion its own authentic, beautiful body. By observing the beauty we see in nature – in all its stages, rhythms, cycles, and seasons, we can unearth and embrace our unique beauty and the beauty in others without judgement.
It is easy to recognize the bountiful beauty of familiar organisms or landscapes we see in nature – a majestic mountain view, a spectacular sunrise or sunset, a captivating, brightly colored flower, or balletic butterfly. However, there are obscure organisms and lesser-known landscapes where beauty is concealed and not so conspicuous. We must explore beyond the evident exterior to unearth the elegance of some ecosystems – a forest after a fire, a decomposing log, a vernal pool.
Vernal pools, or temporary or ephemeral wetlands, are areas of grassland or forest that are saturated with shallow water during variable times of the year. These pools, fluctuating in size and depth, are usually water-filled in the winter and spring months, but dry out in the summer and fall. Although diverse in many water-dependent species, these pools, by definition, lack one particular group of predators – fish. Seemingly, these sodden, seasonal sites are simply unsightly and insignificant – a breeding ground for a profusion of pests and a muddy, murky mess of a lackluster landscape. Looking closer, we discover vernal pools are vibrant, valuable ecosystems, vital to the organisms that live in these harsh habitats. Many of these animals, several species of salamanders, immeasurable numbers of invertebrates, and infinite numbers of frogs, rely on the pools for reproduction. In form and function, these animals have adapted to survive and thrive amongst the frenzied flow of male and female, the convoluted connections between producer and consumer, and the rapid race against time to fully develop and disperse from the dwindling pool before the dry season. After the pools disappear, what remains functions as food and fodder for various visitors to the desiccated, dry ground. Natural systems, like vernal pools, are beautiful in every stage – germination, birth, growth, death, decomposition – the entire life cycle – it is all part of the artistry of life – raw, unfiltered, naked beauty. Within nature, ourselves, and others, we often must look deeper than the surface to find beauty and magic.
When we see beauty in all our significant stages of development – through all our cycles, rhythms, and seasons, not just in form, but in function, we acknowledge and appreciate our boundless beauty and the beauty in others without judgement, filter, or expectation. With nature as our timeless teacher, we safeguard not only what we see in the natural world around us, but also our unique beauty and self-worth within. In addition, we cultivate the other feelings and emotions represented by the mushrooms in our fairy circle – gratitude, love, joy, peace, wonder, and awe – finding our magic as we grow our sense of kinship, belonging, purpose, and harmony.
This post is part of a series beginning with Cultivating Connection: The Fairy Circle Model. Inspired by the fairy circle, a unique and magical phenomenon found in the natural world, I have created a model, or means in which, we as humans, can connect more purposefully and intentionally with nature. I encourage you to read the last few posts to get a clearer picture of the fairy circle model. In addition, I produce a podcast, From the Outside with Sarah C, that explores my relationship with nature and the fairy circle model through stories and essays. It is available on Buzzsprout (click on podcast title), Apple, Spotify, and slew of other podcast platforms. Check it out!