The Definition of Beauty

I think that where we are born determines our concept of beauty. Being born in Maine, then living most of my life in New Hampshire, what I call “beautiful” is different than what someone born, say, in Oahu. For them, it might be the incredible rainbows, the heart-stopping  pink and gold sunsets over the sea, the black sand beaches, the fabulous exotic flowers, and limber palm trees swaying in the fragrant breezes that constitutes beauty for them.

For me, “beautiful” is the rocky coasts of Maine, the cold and angry Atlantic ocean with its icy gray-green waves, and the bits of jewel-like sea glass it grudging leaves on the shores. Or the incredible seasonal changes in New Hampshire; the tender green grass and daffodils in spring, the lush peonies and garden produce in summer and the little brown bats that fly at sunset, the striking colors of fall with its amber, orange, red and yellow leaves, and winter with its stark, austere white, gray and ice-blue beauty.

The beauty of where we come from maps our idea of beauty forever. I lived in various places in Texas for many years, and I grew to love the immense and lavish sunsets of fire-y golds, reds and pinks reaching from end to end of the larger-than-life sky, the surprising loveliness of the desert places, the chatter of mockingbirds at twilight, and the smell of pinyan on the wind. It was both strange and wonderful; breath-taking, in fact. But it wasn’t what I was used to at home. I’d think, ‘oh, this is lovely! But it’s not as lovely as home.’

No matter where we come from or where we go in life, I think we all have our own idea of beauty. This concept applies to people as well. When I was growing up, all the women in magazines had a certain look; that was the “template” most of us females strove to look like in those days. I shudder to think of all the hours I wasted in feeling that I didn’t fit in as a ‘beautiful’ person simply because I didn’t measure up to all those magazine women.

It wasn’t until I was off on my own and looking back at pictures of myself that I realized that I actually had been a good-looking person. Age and perspective will do that for you; you aren’t so hard and demanding on yourself. Plus you learn to recognize true beauty the older you get.

I love it that at this time we all seem to have undergone a sea change of what ‘beautiful’ can mean. Now we are seeing images of people who are unique—and beautiful. There are models with vitiligo, a skin condition in which white patches develop on the skin (this is what Michael Jackson had). Many women with this condition call themselves “Appaloosa women,” after the Appaloosa horses:

There are also male and female models of those who have lost limbs and now proudly show off their prosthetic legs and arms. They are a vision of not only beauty, but strength, courage and sacrifice. There are men and women of all colors, races, sizes and ages. The more exposed we are to these multitudes of unique beauty, the more enraptured we become with each other.

Think of those whom we see—look beyond the obvious. “Beautiful” can describe an old woman in a wheelchair. She has many wrinkles in her face and neck, her arms and hands are liberally sprinkled with dark spots, and some of her fingers are bent by arthritis. Her shrunken and bent body is a testament to hard work and sacrifice, and yet, her smile (with many missing teeth) is warm, welcoming and radiates happiness.

How many meals has she prepared and served in her lifetime? How many babies and children has she soothed in her arms? How many animals accepted her kindness and gentleness with them? How many hearts and minds has she touched in her long life? This is real beauty; a life lived well.

Seeing these images, we may learn to accept many varieties of beauty, and I am hopeful that all of us, young and old, can come to appreciate our own magnificence and beauty.

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