Perfection in an Imperfect World
A single rose revives my spirit
The other day on my walk around the neighborhood, I stopped and gazed, really studied an Old English rose. You know the ones I mean: the palm-sized flowers, exquisitely scented, and densely whorled with 100 or more petals as soft as baby’s skin.
For a few moments, this lovely rose transported me beyond our plague, beyond countries collapsing from earthquake and political upheaval, beyond blood-red skies of wildfires, beyond cruelty and ugliness. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the steady drip of dispiriting reality, yet this perfect rose was just as real as any headline, and perhaps, more deserving of my attention.
For the next few days, I resisted doom scrolling and looked around me for other perfections. The seaglass green mystery of my kitty's eyes. The 10-foot-tall sunflower that grew from a thumbnail-sized seed. (How does it do that?) The rainbow on the kitchen floor cast by a prism on my windowsill. The soul-warmth of Yo Yo Ma playing “Ashokan Farewell.” A nectarine bursting with sweetness and juice.
I discovered that once I adjusted my lens on the world, I saw it quite differently. I also felt less threatened, more secure. And more hopeful. Yes, yes, I know that the world teems with injustice and violence. I don’t look away -- at least not for long. But I also
seek balance in our wobbly world. Beauty helps neutralize the ugly. Perfection now and then keeps me sane. So I look for it.
Mr. Rogers famously shared his mother’s advice for coping with scary situations: “Look for the helpers.”
I also suggest: Look for perfection. Often it hides in plain sight, but once you see it you will be changed. You can never not see it.
About a year ago, a nearby ice cream parlor burned. The charred shell remained until this summer when a demolition crew hauled away debris and bulldozed the ground. For years the building had been the landmark reminding me to turn onto my street. Once it disappeared, I felt disoriented and drove past my turn a couple of times. Soon I adapted and knew to turn homeward at the empty lot.
Then last week while waiting there for traffic to move, I noticed the yellow day lilies and shrub roses, old landscaping, blooming in the rubble as though nothing had happened. Beautiful and ephemeral.
I visited them on foot this morning.
The day lilies will last but a day; the roses, perhaps a week. But just for today, their blooms are perfect. And just for today, I again savor a speck of perfection in an imperfect world. ###
What refreshes your spirit in a weary world?
Photo credits: Irina Zhuravleva, rose, edited; Aditya Joshi, nectarine, edited.