During a psychology seminar in college, we took a variety of tests that assessed strengths, interests, personalities, etc. One particular test burned into my memory — the VIA Character Strengths, where I discovered that unlike my classmates’ strengths of kindness, leadership, and the like — I possessed the strength of “appreciation of beauty and excellence,” not necessarily a strength to bring up in an interview.
At the time, I was a Toms-wearing, social cause-bearing hipster and felt that helping orphans in third-world countries must actually be my true strength. I felt embarrassed that my inner self seemed a bit shallow and narcissistic. I didn’t shed that embarrassment until I became a photographer and began to marvel at, and capture beauty for my work – not just physical beauty, but also the unexpressed, nonverbal and emotional beauty so tangible on a wedding day.
We moved to our house in October 2013, so last spring was the first time we had discovered the Magnolia trees in our front yard. I would drive home from work everyday and marvel at their pink hues and how the light would illuminate the blossoms. I promised to take my camera out, but long after they finished blooming I realized I only had a couple pictures on my phone. I mourned the loss of those pink flowers and that I hadn’t taken an evening to photograph their petals. When the trees recently started blooming again, I watched for the perfect evening right before a full sun dipped under the horizon and carefully photographed every angle and flower I could reach on my tiptoes.
My heart aches for beautiful moments, things, patterns, and words. When you crave its presence, beauty becomes visible during the pain and pleasure, the evening and morning, the mundane and extraordinary; it humbles me by revealing itself.
“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” – Mary Oliver.