By Melanie Lee
”Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
- Rumi, poet
After retiring from university teaching at 70, my husband Louis and I moved to Sedona, an artist’s colony and nature paradise in Northern Arizona.
Settling into our new life as aspiring cultural creatives, we studied up on the original inhabitants of this ancient Colorado Plateau region. I became fascinated with the Navajo concept of Hozho, which loosely translates to beauty.
Hozho is a way of life encompassing harmony peace, peace of mind, goodness, ideal family relationships, beauty in arts and crafts, and health of body and spirit.
A certain mindful focus on beauty has its rewards. And takes a good bit of patience. But fortunately when you reach a certain age (“wisdom's edge”) that becomes more available. Courage too.
I’ve a deep admiration for people who’ve fiercely devoted their lives to beauty like Navajo (Dine') sculptor Larry Yazzie. His sculpture Surrender is the embodiment of Hozho, and his creative process adds gravity.
Yazzie begins each new piece never knowing what it will become, the stone itself decides what it will be. Yazzie has said if you know what you're going to do next, then your creative process becomes just a job.
Sometimes, for inspiration, I think about Yazzie and his process. I get up in the morning, make a coffee, sit down, switch on my electric candle (symbolic, handy, economically sensible and besides I'm Aquarius rising), then deliberately start my day by surrendering to beauty.
Turning eyes right, a view beyond my small, lace curtained window appears and behold, Hozho!
Intriguing chunky textures and shapes, a sturdy pink stone wall, a full cascade of English ivy with deep green leafy variations, caressed by an endless expanse of golden sunrise. Hello out there, you big old beautiful world, what's out there for me today?
I’ve come to see that life is awash, just drowning in possibilities for walking the Beauty Way, for the sacred experience of Hozho, not only the visual but also the intangible and spiritual – a wish for someone's well being, gratitude for comfort and safety, gladness for old friends.
Oh, I know. You’re skeptical. "What, sun, lace, rocks, sky, ivy? Oh please, that's nothing to get worked up about."
No, I reply, a thousand times no! It's everything to get worked up about, because in this present moment I am spoken to about beauty. I am breathing, safe, grateful and blessed. I’ve learned, being here in Sedona, how to move into this optimistic and welcoming inner space, no longer trying to force awareness or awakedness.
My part is only to allow the curves of the soul to lead me, listening to the Saguaro cacti, speaking to the gnarly old junipers, saluting the stirring sunsets, marveling at the charm of hummingbirds, honoring the magnetic red rocks turned into enchanted cairns living along well used hiking trails.
Purposely focusing on the Hozho of the present moment as a singular beauty in itself is a way to honor life for what it is now and for what it might yet become.
At 73 years old, I fully understand life should, and can, be more than just a job. Like artist Larry Yazzie, I think life can be a work of art. Maybe you do too.
Here’s an idea for how to begin the day with Hozho: Get up some morning, greet the promise of the day and surrender to beauty.
Muse on a moment when you encountered something in nature so beautiful that it brought you close to tears with its near-perfection. Don't forget the sensual details, sight, sound, taste, feel, smell.
Remember an inspirational person you admire (real person or fictional character), someone who first gave you a sense of beauty and awakened you to the possibility of being so present, that life could be experienced on a higher, more creative and fulfilling plane of existence.
Finish this Hozho greeting by recalling a story (could be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay) that was so viscerally powerful that, after you’d finished reading it, your life was changed forever in a positive way.
[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.
Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.]