A wayside sacrament

I must confess I have some other thoughts in my mind which I’m going to write about later, but as I was trying to place everything buzzing around in my head into some semblance of coherent order, I thought about beauty. And this blog isn’t so much about what I have to say, but on what I’m thinking at the moment. Why is it so difficult for us to find beauty? Why do we need to look in all those hidden corners other than right in front of our eyes to see beauty? Why is it impossible to recognize beauty in all that we call “ordinary”?

I don’t ever remember opening a dictionary to see the meaning of beauty – well, I did just now. I don’t even remember ever using the words and “ugly” and “hate”. And before you think I’m being holier-than-thou, I can use language that would make a salty sailor blush.

beau·ty n. pl. beau·ties

– The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.

– A quality or feature that is most effective, gratifying, or telling.

– An outstanding or conspicuous example.

With photography an indelible focus of mine, I have learnt that the only way to recognize beauty in each and every form is to slow down in life, pause and stare unabashedly. What other people find boring, I find interesting, what other people ignore, I find intriguing, what other people pass by, I stop at. Because now I see beauty in truthfulness, a representation of what really exists, as the Lord created. For that you have to scratch the surface, sometimes deep below. And it works the same way in relationships – we hasten to judge. I have. Think about it.

I discovered beauty in these trees as I walked the Himalayas, and I was reminded of Thomas Carlyle’s words when he said: “When the oak is felled the whole forest echoes with it fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.” So the obvious isn’t necessarily the most important. Sometimes what lies beneath is even more so. 

As those other thoughts of what I should actually be writing on overwhelm my mind, all I want to remind myself is to slow down. And listen carefully to Ralph Waldo Emerson words: “Never lose the opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.”

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  1. Ritu Dubey July 12, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Brilliant black and white pictures that you’ve captured along with a tale

  2. Manzie July 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Beautiful description of ‘beauty’ itself. Love the expression ‘a thousand acorns are sown in silence’ just so heart touching expression..beautiful indeed :)
    Loved the images Debesh it resembles so much to the ‘wrinkles portrait’ is symbolic of age and autumn of life. Great work !

  3. Sonny July 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    there is only one truth i have garnered ….and that is that old sepia saying …beauty is in the eye of the beholder….
    whats beautiful to my eyes ….may not stir the same emotions in another heart….

    beauty in ordinary things….and therein lies the conundrum deb…..the definition of ordinary itself changes from one to another…..
    say me for example…..and those lines from anais nin—-

    A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked…” ordinary for most……beauty personified for me……

    as always a lovely walk through your thoughts……i like the first photo….the way the sun criss crosses on the dust road…..

  4. Anu July 14, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    A nice reminder to appreciate things, people, relationships and everything around us that we take for granted.
    A good read and amazing photography!

  5. Anna July 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    To be able to notice what really goes on around us, is to be attentive and aware of oneself. The beauty in the small things, we humans often take for granted, is from my perspective what matters in life. We should remember to be just as curious about what goes on within ourselves as on the outside. Good thoughts with good reminding reflections on what matters in life. The truth can be, in fact, more than meets the eye.

  6. Nancy de Flon July 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Reading your reflection and looking at your photos has been a wonderful, inspiring way to start the day. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on beauty (with the photos!) and the quotes from those who have gone before us. This reminds me, I have a sunflower plant that has “seen better days” but she’s still beautiful. I need to treat her with my macro lens today.

  7. Debesh July 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Thank you so much Ritu and Manzie. I am touched that you liked the words and photographs.

    Sonny, you’re absolutely right, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Thank you as always for your beautiful words.

    Dear Anu, thank you. I appreciate your compliments and I am most grateful.

    Anna, yes indeed, the truth can be more than what meets the eye. Sometimes (or maybe even most times) it is important to look within ourselves and reflect than attempt to find answers outside us. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to realize the need for this meditative silence by a person.

    Nancy, thank you for being so kind and generous with your compliments. I am most touched. We all see better days, good days, and yet others not so good. What I try and remember on the “not-so-good” ones is: “this too shall pass”. I hope you have a wonderful day with your sunflower plant, and I’m sure it is sunny as ever, despite those better days. Good luck and I look forward to being in touch with you.

  8. MK July 16, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    I never knew my Debesh; for i should have been his fan when i had lots of time in pune… you are gifted.. keep doing a good job… and, by the way, i see all your posts… my offer to meet for a purpose at Dilli was for real… it still stands…

  9. Anna July 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Yes, that is a very true Debesh. Most people dont understand some people´s need for meditation in silence, as well the need to restore and get understanding in this often so complicated life. I feel the same way! Meditation is important for everyone. I respect how you practice and emphasize on better nature. It shines through in your work. I wish I could exhibit my work the same way. But, I leave it to the photographers that have the privileged to capture others on film. I am not allowed to here in my practice. But I understand the depth of the souls, even though in my profession we are not asked. Good work you are doing!

  10. Greg Buck July 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Black and White in this area of photography more times than not, just does not work for me.

    Depending on what you are trying to portray will depend on how these images are seen.

    With landscape, I believe colour gives life and character and this certainly separates those different aspects that we need to see in landscape.

    These simply don’t grab me in the same way as black and white in portrait or street photography where colour can sometimes distract away from the character of the subject.

    Great to see that you see what you see in these images and I admire you for being creative and willing to try different things.

    Thank you.

  11. Ed July 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    What really comes through beautifully in the B&W vegetation shots are the intricate lines that appear in natural environments, in some cases (as in the last three pictures) capturing the movement of the wind across years. great pictures!

  12. Debesh July 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Thanks a lot MK and Anna; I appreciate your gracious words. MK, yes we need to meet whenever you’re here next.

    Thank you so much Greg for your thoughtful comments which I really appreciate. Yes, I agree about color providing the much needed emphasis to landscapes, but these particular set of images were an “experiment” as you rightly said in doing a high-contrast, high-structure series of trees and seeing how those came out. Another dear friend (also a photographer) told me as well that these photographs would suffice as a “quick-fix” but later the eye searches for the shades in between. I’ll rework these at some point of time and do a comparison. I really appreciate your critique Greg my friend.

    Ed, many thanks for writing in. I’ve been following all your latest photographs – absolutely stunning. Thank you for that art which touches my soul.

  13. GypsyWhim July 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    I am by no means a photographer, however, I love the aesthetic pleasure that photographed images are able to provide me. I actually love the last three images (Himachal tree 4: my fave!) — they remind me of the old Japanese/Chinese tree paintings. I was just reading about Muromachi paintings and the introduction of mononchromes. I don’t pretend to know anything about old ancient oriental art, but on quick glance, these last images almost feel like a contemporary photographic version of the former. Beautiful stuff!

  14. Debesh August 3, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Dear Amy,

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words – I treasure them. Strange how you mention Japanese & Chinese art…I’ve been meaning to write on that for a while now. Maybe my next post will be on that. Thank you once again.

  15. Sandra Gibeault September 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    So true… beauty surrounds us and it’s a shame that so many people are so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives that they forget to look around and see what beauty lies right in front of them… I love reading your posts!

  16. Debesh October 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Thanks so much Sandy! It is amazing how many of us feel this way, and of those “many”, most are photographers…I daresay and I confess that I wouldn’t have felt this way either had I not discovered the true essence of photography.

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