“I HAVE felt the pain that arises from a recognition of beauty . . .” wrote Terry Tempest Williams in An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. It was an epiphany when I read this phrase and I began to ponder it. Something I had felt many times had been given words. In my life I have had many experiences of recognizing beauty. I have seen it, heard it, and felt it. Each time that I experienced true piercing beauty, it had been accompanied by a momentary twinge of pain.
That moment. In that moment, I am overwhelmed with the sensation of beauty and it evokes a sense of ecstasy. But it is paradoxical. The joyful moment is coupled with a melancholy pain. The joy is there and then it is gone.
WHAT CREATES this pain of beauty? I speculate that it is when we feel the oneness with all creation. It is the unity with The-Spirit-Who-Moves-Through-All-Things. It washes over us in a fleeting, yet ecstatic, moment of being One with it all. The peace and love is felt deep within a part of ourselves we don’t often contact. But it is a glorious sensation that is difficult to express in ordinary language. The pain begins when we feel the ecstasy dissipating. It does not last but we desperately want it to remain.
In the depths of the ecstasy and pain, I am a very elemental part of creation. I am the frog basking on the log. The leaf that is dancing in the breeze. The collision of hot and cold air. The rain droplet feeding the earth. The loping coyote sifting scents. It is a suspension of time. The moment of truly being.
And yet, as a human, I am part of it—but we forget. We are never separate. Perhaps it is how open we allow ourselves to be with the natural world. Are we in the moment? Do we allow ourselves to be transparent to nature?
And still the beauty unfolds . . .
(Excerpt from my book: Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History)