Trees of Winter

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The embers of Autumn have quietly faded and fallen. Now I begin the mad rush of packing for the move to Guam (yes, Guam) by the end of the year. The winter chill and smell of snow has provoked the … Continue reading

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Sleeping in the Forest

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    I thought the earth  remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the riverbed, nothing between me and the … Continue reading

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Where the Mind is Without Fear

Some recreational musical surfing of a favorite songstress, Imogen Heap, has produced the discovery of a wonderful poem, “Where the Mind is Without  Fear”, which I have reproduced below. What’s fascinating is the poem’s origins; the author, Rabindranath Tagore, is … Continue reading

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Embers of Autumn

Friday morning creeps in under a veil of fog.  The trees seem to sag under the weight of morning dew, appearing sad at the barrier between themselves and morning’s warm red glow.

 It’s cool but not yet cold. 

Winter hasn’t come just yet, but its noisy, blustery arrival is anticipated while Autumn silently enters.  Each day she paints the leaves with a fiery red or a warm golden glow, quietly revealing a color palette with such energy, intensity, & passion, I’m astounded no one seems to notice.   As I gasp in awe in my head I hear a musical crescendo building & building & building with each color I see that I feel the musical climax approaching with the inevitable release from the source and descent into the unknown.

This season, Autumn (Automne, Podzim, Herbst, Autonno, Otoño) resonates so deeply within me.  The cool air chills you, just a bit, yet its crispness and clarity awakens you to the quiet beauty surrounding and within.  The trees, having been so busy, so productive during Spring and Summer growing, blossoming, stretching and expanding so noisily, now begin to slow their movements, quiet their growth, contract instead of expand.  Turning away from absorbing energy from the sun, earth, and sky, Autumn beckons her children to turn inward, focusing her sacred energy to their center with such an intensity that they must seek release and escape from their appendages, the leaves, in an explosion of color of fire or slowly burning embers.

A thousand shades of green evolve into a thousand tiny fires.

Although I know I sound crazy or worse yet, waxing poetic, but I feel these signs of Autumn are symbols of the fire within– within every molecule, every cell, every living being, from the infinite expanse of the universe to the quiet voice within me.  Yet it is only a symbol, a trite talisman.  I feel vainglorious to think I could ever describe something so intangible, so precious.  A thing I understand everyone possesses, but few are conscious of. It cannot be described, drawn, seen, or heard. For it is part of an indefinable process, the journey.  And every attempt I make to describe it seems somehow… sadly… lacking.

Yet for some strange reason I cannot help but try—

After absorbing from the outside; opening up and changing with Spring’s rebirth and blossoming, then whisked away with Summer’s eagerness to grow, produce, stretch, expand.  Autumn brings silence and reflection, and in that quiet stillness, watching the watery sunset and feeling the omens of Winter’s dark and icy coldness, she whispers her passionate secret —

 “I am alive, I am here, I exist.  I am a form of beauty like no other.  I am worthy of life and love and honor.  I matter because I

have a purpose– I am classic beauty, archetypal elegance, eternal grace.  These fiery colors signal the inevitable time when light diminishes and warmth fades and the energy from the earth, sun, and sky that has given me life slowly disappears.  The flow of energy changes course and balance is restored. Yet these fiery banners, these autumnal anthems reveal the immeasurable, incomprehensible, breathtaking energy and fire in me, from me, of me.

Energies that never fade, never die, only expand and retract, ebb and flow.”

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Beauty, beauté, Schönheit, ομορφιά, bellezza, красотка, krasavice


  1. the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).
  2. a beautiful person, esp. a woman.
  3. a beautiful thing, as a work of art or a building.
  4. Often, beauties. something that is beautiful in nature or in some natural or artificial environment.
  5. an individually pleasing or beautiful quality; grace; charm: a vivid blue area that is the one real beauty of the painting.
  6. Informal: a particular advantage: One of the beauties of this medicine is the freedom from aftereffects.
  7. (usually used ironically) something extraordinary: My sunburn was a real beauty.
  8. something excellent of its kind: My old car was a beauty.


late 13c., from Anglo-Norm. beute, O.Fr. biauté (12c., “beauty, seductiveness, beautiful person,” Mod.Fr. beauté), earlier beltet, from V.L. bellitatem (nom. bellitas) “state of being handsome,” from L. bellus “pretty, handsome, charming,” in classical L. used especially of women and children, or ironically or insultingly of men, perhaps from PIE *dw-eye- and related to bonus “good,” bene “well.” Famously defined by Stendhal as la promesse de bonheur “the promise of happiness.” Replaced O.E. wlite. Concrete meaning “a beautiful woman” is first recorded late 15c. Beauty sleep “sleep before midnight” is attested by 1850.

I like the first definition of beauty- “the intense pleasure or deep pleasure to the mind”- it can be evoked or arise from something perceived by the senses, by a pattern meaningful to that individual, or by something else… that something else or je ne sais quoi is not tangible, quantifiable, or even definable.

This definition appears to be a more accurate description of a mosaic of ideas and feelings and sensations that are contained within the verbal vessel of “beauty”.

However, we live in a place and time that surrounds us with visual images of beauty. We are bombarded, both consciously and unconsciously, to ideals of beauty that are artificially created but still influence our tastes and, subsequently, our choices in what we find attractive.

In Anthropology the concept of beauty is examined over both space and time.

A beautiful person in New Guinea may not be considered as beautiful in, say, Venezuela, the Ukraine, or to the Inuit of Alaska. Yet, anthropologists (and other scientists) have discovered a common theme or a set of universals that run concurrent through all cultures in their concept of beauty.

First is the symmetry of face; does one half of your face exactly mirror the other? Try this test: cover one side of your face, take a snapshot, then the other side. Now take the pictures and align them; do the features in one photo look exactly the same as the other? Another interesting exercise is to take a photo that is one side of your face then, on the computer, rotate so it matches up to the opposite side.

How symmetrical or unsymmetrical are you?

Why is symmetry so important? There is no definitive reason, but scientists speculate that facial symmetry would exclude the possibility of birth defects or malformations of the skull and accompanying sensory “accessories”. Therefore a person with a symmetrical face is less like to be crazy or brain damaged and is more likely to have the full capabilities of his/her senses (smell, taste, vision, etc.) with symmetry.

In contrast, think of those you would consider ugly or unattractive-the facial features are usually very distorted and uneven. The first example that comes to my head is Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Note the asymmetry of the face and malformation of the shoulders (big or healthy shoulders being indicative of male vigor and health). Even the hair is asymmetrical.

Interesting how it appears that only the mouth has any symmetry or normality in the picture. And it’s from the mouth of Quasimodo that emerges beauty; i.e., the words that win the gypsy girl, with whom Quasimodo has fallen in love.

Examples of symmetrical faces are Bill Clinton & George Clooney for men. Cindy Crawford is supposed to have one of the most symmetrical faces in the world—

Symmetry both vertically and horizontally alludes to perfection, a thing always desired.

Now, while looking at these pictures consider these other indicators of beauty that cross cultures; a clear face (no scars, blemishes, or freckles), clear eyes (i.e., you can see whites of eyes and their color as compared to the pupil), white teeth (and all teeth being there). These facial features indicate health and youth (consider the opposites).

To consider further physical features would involve gender differences;

For men; breasts, legs, and butts, primarily. Disregarding the clichés and jokes, it does make sense for these features to be focused upon when contemplating physical attraction. A male primarily searches or focuses upon those features that would indicate that the female is healthy and can give birth. Breasts would indicate she could feed the child; therefore the child would have a better chance to live after childbirth. Strong or supple legs indicate both youth and strength. Can she carry the child long distances, can she travel long distances to gather plants, etc. to bring home to eat, can her legs brace her sufficiently when giving birth? And the butt is the most interesting; a perky butt indicates youth, and some amount of butt indicates that she has enough fat around her hips to be able to absorb the trauma of childbirth and provide a solid platform to push the baby out.

For women; chest, shoulders, arms, legs, stomach, back, and of course, the butt are the primary features emphasized. The focus on the upper body may be because, in early humans, the women stayed at camp to nurse the child and gather plants to eat, while the males went out to hunt. Hunting involved considerable upper body strength not only to kill the animal, but also to bring it back to camp. Upper body strength also indicates the ability to protect.

The female, especially during the first years after childbirth, have to concentrate most of their time and energies on the care and protection of the child. These energies dedicated to the child are taken away from both the female’s self-care and self-protection. A young mother is more susceptible to attack from predators because of her time, attentions, and physical energies (nursing, holding, and carrying) exerted to protect the child. Hence, the female physical dependency eventually morphed, somewhat, into a mental dependency.

But I digress.

The lower male features, legs and butt, and the female focus upon them are as indicators of youth and, again, strength. A perky butt and strong legs can run after prey faster and run towards protecting the female quicker.

Well, there are some universals of characteristics of physical beauty.

What about cultural or cross-cultural?

There are too many to list, and some examples I would have to look up the pics, which would take too long, so I refer to a change of the perception of beauty over time in Western Europe; the feature of weight and women.

During the later Renaissance and Baroque you will see a predominance of “healthier” or what we would consider overweight women in paintings. The most obvious and popular example I can think of is the “Rubenesque Beauty”.

During the Baroque period, and for centuries before, women with some “meat on their bones” also were women who could afford “meat on their plates”. Essentially they were born to some wealth. Thin meant poor and underfed as in peasantry.

Consider the present—thin is in! Well, not exactly.

If you deliberate on the features Americans perceive as being attractive; thin, clear skin, healthy teeth, breasts (but not too big), perky butt, and long legs for women, and pretty much the same for men (except the breasts) these features predominately are indicators of youth. The movie or TV stars that are considered attractive today do not possess any exaggerated physical features like big chest (Schwarzenegger) or breasts (P. Anderson). Rather it is the gamine, youthful figures that are considered attractive.

For example; Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were once proclaimed the perfect couple; yet look at their features, they are almost interchangeable.

The thinner the woman is, while still maintaining a youthful version of breasts and butt, the better. Lower body or belly fat would be indications of sloth and “not taking care of yourself” regardless of the mental or physical health of the woman. Consequently, our culture is just as cruel or ruthless with men; baldness is seen as negative (usually occurring later in life) as well as fat anywhere around the body.

Now ruminate on those tools we use or actions we engage in to become more beautiful;

  • men shaving their face (less facial hair more likely to be youthful) women shaving under arms and legs (ditto).
  • botox for both men and women- injecting a poison into the skin to take away wrinkles.
  • Women getting face lifts, breasts changed to appear youthful and fertile.
  • Both men & women wearing contacts; glasses mean either birth defect or aging, both being unattractive.
  • Whitening of teeth and replacement/insertion of lost teeth, correction of flaws in teeth (braces, etc.)
  • Men putting implants of hair into the head to cover their baldness.
  • Baldness indicating age.
  • Both men and women coloring hair, using creams and lotions, nipping and tucking, injecting and expelling any element of their physical bodies that would hint at the advancement of age.
  • All the money that is spent on regaining our youth could be spent to educate our existing youth, probably ten times over.

My point being that we have been influenced tremendously by the culture we live in and that culture has seared into our minds (and hearts) that we, imperfect and constantly changing, are not attractive if we do not appear youthful.

Age is not attractive, respected, or revered.

To the contrary, the most popular movie right now with the American youth is about young people being immortal (Twilight movies); being young and beautiful forever.

Yet do we, as conscious individuals, as participants in this unique discourse involving our own individual opinions and thoughts and questions, do we have to yield or concede to living as “byproducts” of our culture, bound by those ideas and images we were taught or trained or influenced to like, be attracted to?

The indicators of health (clarity of skin, white and most of your teeth, clarity of eyes) would still hold firm and valid since it’s only logical to be attracted to someone who physically indicates that they are healthy and therefore will not expire after the third date. But the others, the other indicators, the other features, the other patterns/designs or physical manifestations, should they influence or control what we discover to give us “intense pleasure” or “deep satisfaction”? Are physical features alone the most powerful indicators of survival of the fittest in this unique species that is us?

We do not hunt game, nor do we gather plants to survive; we use our wits and cunning, our minds to survive. We use our mind and its by-product, culture (and not vice-versa, culture using us), to conquer foes, eliminate obstacles, and obtain that which we need to be able to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves.

The gender differences are no longer so great; a woman no longer needs a man to take care of her before, during, or after childbirth, and a man no longer needs a woman for effective and quality child-rearing.

Then we are only left with those features by which we may best survive in this time and space in the most effective way;

Compassion, intellect, empathy, kindness, patience, understanding, happiness, contentment or tranquility, respect, honesty, acceptance of responsibility, humility, and right mindfulness or living in the present wisely and authentically (as opposed to mourning the past or worrying about the future)

It is those very features or qualities, those intangible, indefinable, that something else that will enhance, improve, intensify, elevate, reinforce, augment, strengthen and “beautify” our individual lives.

The symbols or signs of physical age are irrelevant and insignificant; they distract, obstruct, and hide the features by which true beauty, in our definition, within our space and time, with our unique senses, can, would, and should be perceived and appreciated.

It is with the mind’s eye that true beauty; that which aids and is essential for our internal growth to continue and flourish, can be seen.

Therefore, why should we worry about our physical appearance, the absence of this or the addition of that, as it applies to attraction or beauty to the other?

It is what we say and how we say it and those thoughts and musings and questions and answers and chatter and silence that provide the features, the indicators of beauty that we can then judge the other as attractive or not.

So, if I may be so bold to declare–

“it is not by physical beauty alone that conscious humans, such you and I, can and should live, survive, and thrive. One must turn one’s eyes inward to perceive true beauty; true beauty being secretly defined by us as that by which one may both give and receive such sustenance and nourishment, derive such pleasure and satisfaction that would cause even the gods to become envious of such pleasure and hungry for such nourishment.”

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