Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 16, 2005

Take a moment to find beauty around you

“I believe in Michelangelo, Velasquez, and Rembrandt; in the might of design, the mystery of color, the redemption of all things by Beauty everlasting, and the message of Art that has made these hands blessed. Amen. Amen.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

I’ve been taking an art history class this summer, and its two final projects that have been consuming my spare time over the last few weeks have me thinking about the nature of beauty. I don’t think of beauty as something that is only visible to they eye. I believe that if we look, we can find beauty in activities, in relationships, and in deeds as well as in people and objects.

We’re surrounded by so much ugliness in our lives — the incessant clanging of cell phones and car horns, rude behavior, pollution, corporate malfeasance, seemingly unlimited greed, shocking cruelty, dirty politics, and slapdash architecture — that it’s easy to forget the beauty that quietly surrounds us.

Despite our culture’s oft-sent message that true beauty is reserved for special people — celebrities, models, rock stars, and other fabulously wealthy or immensely powerful people and their huge homes in exclusive locales and the museums they endow — I’ve come to realize the importance of finding beauty in everyday objects and activities.

Just like the amateur videographer in the film “American Beauty” who was captivated by a plastic grocery bag dancing on a breeze, we, too, can find beauty and grace in our everyday lives, if we can only remember to look, to see, to appreciate.

Inspired by my art history class’s final projects, I’ve set about looking for beauty in South Valley. Here are a few of the less-obvious places I’ve found it:

• The design for the new Morgan Hill Public Library. The plan architects Noll & Tam recently presented to City Council is modern, yet appropriate to its site and neighborhood. It takes advantage of the views of El Toro, complements the neighboring civic center buildings, and the well-thought-out interior will encourage visitors to sit down a spell and enjoy a good book – and there’s an unlimited amount of beauty to be found in that activity.

Judge Susan Bernardini’s sentence for Anthony McDowell, who pled guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of Erin Kinkel. Bernardini spoke eloquently of the importance of forgiveness, wisely decided against jail time, and instead required a stiff probationary period and restitution of McDowell. To my non-legal mind, Bernardini displayed the wisdom of Solomon in her handling of this tragic case, sending clear messages about responsibility, the superficiality of spite, the redemptive power of forgiveness, and the importance of honoring Erin’s memory.

• The unanimous decision of Gavilan Community College trustees to keep the school’s infant day care program running. A small shortfall of less than $30,000 led to a recommendation a few weeks ago from Gavilan President Steve Kinsella to shutter the program, despite the fact that students with infants rely on it to attend school. Community pressure and a fundraising effort by parents helped save the program, at least for now. Helping members of our community to gain an education so that they can provide better lives for their children, now that’s a beautiful thing.

• Councilman Bob Dillon’s recent letter to the editor. Dillon related how he adopted a new dog at the San Martin Animal Shelter after the death of his longtime pet. Not only does Dillon write evocatively of the importance of pets in our lives, illuminating the beauty of that relationship, but he also points out the foolishness of county supervisors’ decision to close the animal shelter on Mondays. If you’re considering a pet, follow Dillon’s example and look for an animal in need at a local shelter. It’s a beautiful act on so many levels.

ChildSpree. Every August, Mervyn’s and volunteers provide local children with new school supplies and clothes. Thanks to ChildSpree, these children who come from families who can’t afford to provide these extras, don’t have to feel so much like have-nots when they head back to school with classmates sporting new backpacks, the latest fashions, and cool new shoes. If you’d like to see ChildSpree help more than the 50 kids it assisted this year, send a check to ChildSpree, Box 1179, Morgan Hill, 95038. For more information, call 776-2791.

Where do you find everyday beauty in South Valley? Trust me, when you start to look for it, you’ll see it unexpected places.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

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