If you’ve ever heard a talk given by me in the past year or two, you’ve heard me dwell for a bit on a lovely observation from Roger Scruton on beauty. He points out that there are two kinds of beauty:
“The individual, expressive and revealing gesture, and ordinary harmony and fittingness. In everyday life it is the second kind of beauty that is important, and it is exemplified in home building, gardening and the design of squares, houses and streets. It is important because it expresses and amplifies the human desire for settlement, for an environment in which things fit together and people too.
“It is an instrument of peace.”
Summer is winding down.
The bees are working hard, but there won’t be a huge harvest this year. It was too dry. The grass in my backyard has recovered somewhat; in the front, it’s still pretty stressed. However, it was never impressive, even on its best days.
I see all the weeds I haven’t pulled. I see them clearly.
I see my plans, and how I didn’t get to many of them.
The garden is what it is. I dream in June, and I pick what I can in September — plenty of tomatoes this year, kale always, and raspberries! Which is just a treat.
Inside, there are shelves to put up in the laundry room. We could have done that job over Labor Day weekend, but we went to friends’ daughter’s wedding and took advantage of the proximity to children and grandchildren to make the rounds. And certainly, that is all good!
I’m looking forward to these dark shelves against the white walls, held up by perhaps overly bright blue brackets.
And I need to make some quilts, but I’m not feeling it just now. Hopefully I will soon — maybe when the cooler weather settles in for real and the tomatoes are safely inside.
Scruton speaks of how ordinary beauty is imperfect, unlike the perfection of the grand gesture. But it reconciles us to our own imperfection, while allowing us to remember that there is perfection.
It gives us a home in the world.
I believe that these words resonate particularly with the mother and the father of the family, however large or small it may be. If we serenely pursue this ordinary beauty in everyday things and relationships, we build our home. This beauty gives us settlement, and it gives others settlement as well. It gives them a glimpse of what they can have, themselves, without the anxiety of thinking they must somehow be perfect; paradoxically, it’s that very home-likeness, the imperfection, that most reminds them, and us, of Perfection.