The following is by Tony Hoagland, from "Grammar" copyright 1998 and reprinted from "Donkey Gospel" with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota:
"When she walks into the room,
some kind of light is coming from her head.
Even the geraniums look curious...
We're all attracted to the perfume
of fermenting joy,
we've all tried to start a fire,
and one day maybe it will blaze up on its own.
In the meantime, she is the one today among us
most able to bear the idea of her own beauty,
and when we see it, what we do is natural:
we take our burned hands
out of our pockets
This poem was on page 63 of the May 2004 edition of some magazine that I can no longer identify, but I'd had enough presence of mind to rip the page out and keep it. I'd put it in an envelope of other things I'd saved over the years, and finally pulled everything out and went through the contents. That was when I found this gem among a few others.
The line that really struck me was: "...she is the one today among us most able to bear the idea of her own beauty..." Wow. So many of us have trouble seeing and acknowledging our own beauty; our own greatness. If you asked us what our best qualities were, we might have trouble telling you. We could go on about out shortcomings, having been reminded of those over and over in our lives; but, the good things, hmmmmm.....that might take some thought.
Blessed are the children whose parents compliment them and reinforce their instincts and talents and inherently good behavior. Blessed are the children whose parents don't shame them or make them feel inferior or punish them for being themselves. Blessed are the parents who are able to love and accept their children for who they are without trying to make them into something "more normal" or "more acceptable" or whatever the "more" might be in any particular family or situation. Blessed are the teachers who teach with love and are able to transmit excitement for learning to their students.
I'm much more able to accept my own beauty and talents at this late stage of life than I was when I was younger. People noticing me or complimenting me used to make me very uncomfortable. And, I had ideas about what beauty was and what talent was that somehow didn't include myself. I've spent my life trying to make myself small and invisible. I've spent my life hiding my light under a bushel. I've been endlessly told to be quiet, to go away, to keep my ideas to myself. But, no more.
Age is a wonderful thing. As time has passed and I've become older I pay less attention to any and all derogative comments that might be directed my way. I've grown to know myself more deeply and to have developed an appreciation for my good qualities and talents. What people want me to do matters less than what I want to do. What someone else thinks of me matters less than what I think of myself. My rigid ideas of what constitutes beauty have softened. I have come to realize that I do indeed have talents.
Everyone is precious. Everyone is valuable. Everyone is beautiful. Everyone deserves appreciation and praise. Everyone deserves love. If we valued each other and really saw and recognized each other at a soul level, it wouldn't be so amazing if one among us could bear their own beauty. We would all see ourselves as beautiful. We would all walk in beauty. We would all be confident and light-filled. We would all realize our unique contribution and be happy to give it.
Each one of us holds the key to a mystery. Each one of us comes with a gift. Each one of us has something invaluable to contribute. Each one of us shines our own special light. So, don't just bear your beauty, revel in it, express it, share it. Create your own "perfume of fermenting joy." There is joy in self acceptance, and that joy is easily shared. Your joy, your self-acceptance might ignite those same things in someone else who's been struggling. Your sense of beauty might help someone else realize that they are beautiful, too.
Beauty truly does come from within. One of the hurdles of our society is that it's so outwardly focused. We see media images of what society considers beautiful and successful, and if we don't fit within those parameters we consider ourselves lacking. But, that is not the truth. Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes, and there are many levels of success, not all of which are measured by how large our bank accounts are or by how many things we own. It's time to broaden our perspectives beyond the limits of the past. It's time to look deeper and see beyond the surface of things.
So, let's all "take our burned hands out of our pockets" and reveal ourselves in all our glory to the world. Let's give our gifts and talents. Let's appreciate ourselves. Let's walk in beauty all the days of our lives.