Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Zoo for Trees

That's how my folks described the National Arboretum when we passed it on one of our trips to DC when I was a kid. Now that I live a possible 17 minutes from it (traffic makes a difference), I call it a Beauty Refuge. I don't mean "beauty" as in painting your toenails unnatural colors (that's for Girls' Night), I mean "Beauty" as in "Late have I loved you, ancient Beauty, ever new."

Aquinas tells us that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are all different words describing the same thing: God, the ultimate Beauty, the ultimate Truth, the ultimate Goodness. I had a hard time with that, Dominican though I am. Still, as I go on, it makes more and more sense. In the lab, we referred to the beauty of a discovery as "elegant." You knew you had the true answer if it was "elegant," even if the person describing it had no belief in God. It's funny: even if you deny God, you can't deny the astonishing beauty of His handiwork. It bears His mark and points to infinity - the more you look the more you see.

I live in what is technically a small town, but functionally a subdivision of suburbia. A maze of streets stuffed with houses, almost all of them red brick with white trim. Four stop signs on every corner. It's not a bad place. I bloom where I am planted and I plant where I am planted! Still, part of my heart longs for open spaces, broad views, and expanses of natural beauty which I do not have to weed or mow.

So, once a week in good weather, we pack our art kits and some lunch and head off to the Arboretum. I would say we've been there maybe 30 times, probably more. We still haven't seen the whole thing. We see new things almost every time we go, although we revisit our favorites often. The kids run and play and draw and soak up the beauty til it shines out their eyes. I walk with the Lord and play with the kids and return refreshed, my eyes retrained to see beauty wherever I am.

If you're curious, the picture is Leena in the older part of the Asian garden.

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