Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Beauty Addict

         Imagine this is a recovery program. I stand up and say
“My name is Leah and I’m addicted to beauty.” You say “Hi Leah”, and then I tell you my story and and make my confession.

         Beauty has been a revelation, a source of awe, a compulsion, an escape, a fortification. It is my drug of choice and necessity. So let me tell the worst first, and get it over with: I have loved people for their beauty,  convinced that underneath the sweetfeatures of the poet was a pure soul. 

         And don’t get me started about the art I’ve had to buy because I couldn’t walk away from it.
'Florissima' (Oaxaca)
(Fortunately I’m not a diamonds & fur kind of person, unless the fur is on a living animal.) For years I relied on a waterfall, meadows, weeping willows, cherry blossoms,  big white dogs with big ruffs, etc ad infinitum, to fill voids, gloss the past, and not have to think about the future. 

      So what caused this addiction? The swirl and pattern of colored glass in a kaleidoscope when I was a little girl? The roses and peonies in my mother’s garden? A handsome and charming uncle I adored?
Dr. Sam Singal
Books of stunned and stunning wild animals? Perhaps it was moonlight on first heavy snowfall, the gleam and awe of nightquiet, when I couldn’t leave the sight of it, standing at my bedroom window way past bedtime.  All of this masked, for the duration of each, the pain and struggle in my  family.

  Of course perfect beauty is even better than plain old beauty. And that’s another danger - a dismissal, a turning away, a continuously critical eye that sees imperfections, flaws.  And the search for perfection in form, or transcendence in spirit. After seeing the Taj Mahal I wrote:
    Was it snowfall   unspoiled white fields
            where I first felt the word ‘perfection’
                 finally fulfilled in this building
                      that I  must leave    and never see  again 

          But one thing does lead to another with addictions - eventually it will lead you to the hard stuff.  That sweet infatuation with a kaleidoscope’s colored glass led me to 12th century stained glass. I was hypnotized by Mary’s-robe blue and spent years studying the 12th century in France - which also included the return of Greek idealism, illuminated manuscripts, Arthurian tales & courtly love. Ah heaven! Escape!
   (It took much longer before I could  study the terrible in history, the catastrophic - and write about it.)

    Beauty, like all addictions, is a Road you must follow, but at least it probably won’t kill you. Fortunately, this addiction can also provide an income. A legal one.  I discovered literature, philosophy, music and art in my senior year of high school  and eventually became a Humanities prof - a decent source of money to support the Road.

      My mother’s roses wound up in my garden, though try growing peonies in Northern California! Landscape, wild places, redwood groves, mountain passes, all of it is now near and dear.   Because of my love for nature, and the desire that my grandkids and future generations be able to enjoy it,   I have to fight to try and preserve what we have. The churches have this part right -the call must be followed by a response.

       But still, I am always conscious of my dependency. Then, last week, in Anna Halprin’s movement-ritual class, a shift:
After warm-ups, prep and focus, Anna put on a CD of Sibelius and asked us to conjure an image. I began to move to that sublime music.  And then I realized: Beauty may be an addiction but, 
unlike other drugs, it is also a gift.




  1. Thanks for beautiful & I can totally relate!

    1. Ah, Christine. How delightful to meet you here - you whose knowledge of beauty and psyche and lovely images adorn my desk!

  2. Leah - you are in good company! Have you read John O'Donohue's book, "Beauty: the Invisible Embrace"? Thanks for the smile.

  3. beautiful piece leah. of course i feel the same. having the path of art choosing me has caused me to live a life creating and appreciating beauty even though i have had to live on a wing and a prayer. lovingly, robin