Beauty, The Invisible Embrace: #A-Z Challenge

“A world without beauty would be unbearable. Indeed the subtle touches of beauty are what enable most people to survive. Yet beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it. Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness, there is beauty.”

Beauty: The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue

 I’m lucky. Living in the country means that natural beauty is abundant. Walks in the woods, the ice breaking on the pond, water burbling over rocks–nature gives up its gorgeousness so effortlessly.

Noticing the subtle touches of beauty is more of a challenge. In our busy lives, it is easy to dash past the smile of the stranger on the street corner; to barely break our stride when we spot a particularly artful arrangement of goods in a shop window.

But beauty, says O’Donohue, is what the soul hungers for. We can’t afford to pass it by, especially if, as O’Donohue says, it needs “our attention and reverence in order to come alive.”

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

Marcus Aurelius

We Need to Save Beauty

There’s more need than ever to seek out and attend to moments of beauty. O’Donohue makes the interesting point that, “The media generate relentless images of mediocrity and ugliness in talk-shows, tapestries of smothered language and frenetic gratification. The media are becoming the global mirror and these shows enshrine the ugly as the normal standard.”

O’Donohue died before the current spate of ‘reality’ television programs. I can only imagine what he’d say about them!

A Treasure Hunt

Remember, though, that beauty is not perfection. The concept of wabi-sabi embraces the cracks and wrinkles as examples of the beautiful impermanence of life.

Let’s make a game of this. Choose a window of time and see how many instances of beauty you can find. Can you find one or more in each of the seven following categories? 

Colour is the clothing of beauty.

John O'Donohue

  1. the natural world
  2. art
  3. your home
  4. a friend or co-worker
  5. music
  6. someone or something you love
  7. yourself

Now, how do you feel?


Join the tribe:


  1. I love how you’ve equated beauty with so much more than physical good looks. When I was reading your list, the people who came to mind were all beautiful because they had lovely hearts and souls – not because they had a pretty face. I like the idea of the beauty of nature too – and those flowers against the blue sky were stunning.

    Leanne |
    B for Believe in Yourself

  2. What a wonderful expression – lovely hearts and souls. It makes me think of yesterday’s ‘old souls’ concept, the idea of the beauty of our essential selves shining through.
    Thanks for noticing the photograph. I didn’t take it, but I certainly think it’s beautiful. Right now we’re in the season of chilly winds and muddy, still frozen ground. Looking at flowers and a bright blue sky definitely counts as a moment of beauty for me!

    1. I feel the same way, AJ! It took me a little while to get comfortable, but now I prefer it over all other social media. It’s so much more positive and beautiful. Especially in times of crisis. Karen, I imagine you’d like it very much! ~Alana

  3. This post speaks to everything that I’ve been trying to embrace since I retired – sights, smells, textures, sounds. Everything seems sharper in focus than during my working years.

    As I sit here this morning with my coffee, I’m engulfed in the delicate fragrance of freesia from an Easter bouquet I put together … and it makes me smile. Yes – we are surrounded by simple beauties, all we have to do is choose to recognize them.

    1. Those are beautiful images you’ve created in my mind, Joanne. I can smell your coffee, imagine the pottery mug (you do have a pottery mug, don’t you?), and both see and smell those freesias.
      I know what you mean about things being in sharper focus since retirement. A favourite poem is one by Mary Oliver. Titled “Instructions for Life” it consists of three simple lines:
      Pay attention.
      Be amazed.
      Tell about it.
      I’m so grateful that retirement gives us the opportunity to do all three.

  4. During our travels, I found beauty in the city of Cairo. At first glance, it is a dirty, dusty and hot city to a newcomer. After time though, pieces of beauty come to light be it through the kindness of the people, the beauty of the oriental architecture in some buildings or the joy of people when it finally rains. Beauty is deeper and sharper when contrasted with the first impressions of Cairo.

    1. Cairo is a wonderful example of those subtle touches of beauty, Fran. I love your reference to “the joy of people when it finally rains.” I can see that experience – glowing faces tilted to the sky.

  5. Thanks for pulling our attention back to beauty, Karen. It is so easy in these busy days not to notice how much surrounds us when we are always focused on striking yet another thing off our to-do lists. I have noticed within the last week;
    1. 6 deer crossing our yard at once (yesterday-I have pictures)
    2. The cover artwork on my book I am reading right now – which features a lake and a single red shoe abandoned on the shore.
    3. My freshly spring-cleaned kitchen is b-e-a-utiful (ala Jim Carrey)
    4. I saw a portrait photo (on Facebook) of my best friend in Saskatchewan that I haven’t seen in years now. It made me cry (I would class that as a beautiful moment and a beautiful friend.)
    5. I was transported away by a song I was listening to while making pumpkin pie from scratch yesterday, the song was “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me
    6. My guitar is beautiful- I like looking at the wood grain in the sunlight – it has a beautiful shimmer.
    7. I FELT beautiful sitting in a pew yesterday in church instead of working on the soundboard – I had a bright spring inspired outfit on and was carrying a pink purse!

    1. Great list, Susan! You’re doing a wonderful job of noticing the beauty around you. Your reference to the book cover hadn’t occurred to be, but you’re so right. The art on books can be quite beautiful.

  6. For me, beauty means many things – the sight of new buds on trees, flowers that poke up through the earth and bloom, my cat washing her face, the clean, honest lines of a sculpture, a painting that takes my breath away, a wonderful symphony, a friend’s smile, the taste of good food – I could go on and on, but you get the idea. For me, beauty is everywhere in sight, sound, touch and taste. I’m blessed that I have the senses to experience it.

    1. That’s a great list, Anna. I think it’s really wonderful that you are so aware of beauty. And you’re right – it’s so sense-dependent and we are indeed blessed to have the senses, and the desire, to notice beauty and enjoy it.

  7. Awareness is the theme today! Came up in meditation, and now in your post. How many more times will it I be aware of it today?(yes, I rewrote that to add in the pun!).

    I sent a picture of my Easter flowers to my mom…because they were beautiful to me (and they smell wonderful). I saw beauty in the completed mulch beds yesterday…no planting’s, just empty beds. I saw beauty in the smallest of buds on my transplanted rose bush (my dad’s rose bush – it survived another transplant,) and the lilac (it survived the necessary and very belated extreme trim job). And there was beauty on TV last night as I watched the Jesus Christ Superstar live production….the exuberance & skill of the dancers, the strength in the voices, the wonder of hearing the variation on the story(again).

    It’s good to be reminded to be aware and to be grateful ..of the beauty, of the daily moments that bring joy.

    1. I can hear your gardens calling to you, Pat, since many of the beautiful things you’ve noticed have to do with flowers. How terrific that your dad’s rose bush survived this transplant to your new home.

      I’ve never seen Jesus Christ Superstar, but I do love the beauty of big musical productions for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned. I’ll have to add it to my list of things to do prompted by Profound Journey tribe members.

  8. Lovely thoughts on beauty…and I’m so happy to see you mention the concept of wabi-sabi. It plays an important role in my art. In this age of computer-generated perfection, it gets us back to the human and natural element, and the beauty born of much use. Thanks for a delightful B post!

  9. That was a beautiful, insightful piece. As an unwanted snow blankets our trees and streets I’m taking a new look, it is nice even if it may need to be shoveled later. At the least my dogs are happy.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Ed. I’m sorry to hear about the unwanted snow (it’s just too late in the season for this stuff!), but am glad you are looking at it positively for both you and your dogs.

  10. Hi, Karen – I am currently sitting in a Coffee House in Vancouver. I can complete 5 of the 7 items with which you have challenged us.
    1. The park that I can see from the window is alive with all of the promises of Spring. I have been to this coffee shop before but somehow never noticed.
    2. There are 12 beautifully framed and matted drawings on the wall. I had never noticed them before either.
    5. There is soft music playing in the background. How had I missed that?
    6. Richard is sitting across from me. His beauty I always notice!
    7. I am warm, cozy and content from the beauty surrounding me!

    1. Five out of seven without moving an inch is great, Donna.
      I’m wondering how your coffee shop visit is relating to your upcoming ‘B’ post. A particularly attractive barista?

      1. I’m writing at the Ferry right now. I will try to post before the trip is over! It’s amazing how motivating a little pressure can be!

  11. I watched a scifi StarTrek episode about a civilization without art or music, two more forms of ‘beauty’. It was eye-opening to realize how much is communicated without words. Nice piece, Karen.

    1. I haven’t seen that episode, Jacqui. It’s difficult to imagine a civilization without art or music. I’m glad that it is not reality here on planet Earth. I think that every culture has both.

    1. I came across O’Donohue’s work for the first time a couple of months ago when he was quoted in a book about creativity. Since then I’ve read several of his books and looked at his life story. It is so sad that he died so young.

  12. Love Mary Oliver’s three simple lines, Karen. When I went for my daily walk this morning, I saw the natural beauty around me (sunlight, trees, birds, lake view…). They are art on their own. When I returned home, I noticed the art I hang on my walls more, some had birds, plants, blue sky in them (funny how I see the same themes inside and outside). My husband turned on some music from his computer. I always notice his beauty, especially now when he says he’ll be making us lunch today, LOL! I’m feeling terrific after my walk and enjoying the comfort at home with my loved ones.

    1. As a regular reader of your blog, Natalie, it strikes me that you have a life just literally chock full of beauty. You spend a lot of time walking and travelling, which means a lot of time appreciating nature and manmade beauty as well. And you seem to have tremendously fulfilling relationships with family and friends. You’re fortunate, and aware that you are fortunate. That’s a great place to be.

  13. One thing that is interesting to me is the deep beauty in a person. I know so many people who aren’t beautiful in the way that Hollywood might require, but because their inner beauty is so powerful it shows through brilliantly. I love that.

    1. I love that too, Heather. It’s interesting that you know so many people with that inner beauty. Perhaps there’s something to the theory that like attracts like?

  14. I need to be surrounded by beauty wherever I am. I have brought a lot of personal items into my office at work, because of this need. I love my beautiful things and this beautiful world. Definitely something my soul hungers and is grateful for. Glad to know I am not alone. Thank you for this post, Karen!

    1. You are so definitely not alone, Deb. Beauty is really important to me and I too used to surround myself with beautiful things wherever I worked. When that was a classroom, people never understood why I’d bring often expensive items into the room, but when beauty feeds your soul and you hope it will feed others, there’s no option.

  15. Hi Karen, We have both selected beauty for ‘B’ mine is inner beauty and yours is beauty around us. I agree that most of us get so caught up in life we don’t look for the beauty around us. I love your seven areas of beauty and today I am making sure to find something in each category. Sometimes when there is a perfect blue sky I feel the beauty around me.
    B is for Beauty – the importance of inner beauty

    1. Hi Sue,
      Yes, I laughed when I was on your blog this morning, reading and commenting on your B for beauty post. Because of the time difference, I’ve had a sneak peek at your C post. On that one, we diverge, but I imagine there will be letters in the alphabet where we’ll come back together once again.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny. I too enjoy the concept of wabi-sabi. I’m not sure I could live surrounded by cracked and imperfect objects but I like the idea of it.

  16. In general, I can find beauty in many things. But, when the mind is clouded, and negative experiences keep happening due to incapabilities of others, finding beauty becomes harder. Especially in people. Thanks for this positive post, Karen!

    1. You’re welcome, Liesbet. I do know what you mean about our moods influencing how much beauty we are capable of seeing. Hopefully by actively seeking out beauty, mood improves!

  17. Karen,

    First off, I wanted to thank you for visiting my site yesterday. 🙂 I’m sorry you had some trouble finding my post… I’ve updated the home page to land on the Daily Dose: Inspired page now, so that should (hopefully!) fix the issue.

    Next, I wanted to say… what a lovely post and website you have here! I will certainly bookmark you and come back to visit. Naturally, I love the theme. I also really love your Treasure Hunt exercise to look for seven signs of beauty, all around.

    Thank you again for the visits, and I look forward to connecting more throughout A to Z and beyond!

    Of Love + Light,

    1. Thank you, Alana. I appreciate that you have made your blog posts easier to find on your new and beautiful site. And I’ll be very glad if you decide to keep visiting and perhaps become a member of the tribe by subscribing (purple button at top right). I love your focus on creative inspiration.

  18. Living where I do it is easy to get lost in the BIG PICTURE. The grand view. It is often overwhelming. So I often stop and focus on the tiny beauty around me. Did you know that when you slice a papaya the end is often in the shape of a star. And the inner depth of a flower often holds as much beauty to explore as the big picture. We just need to look.

    1. What an interesting perspective, Nancy. It actually reminded me of something that John O’Donohue talked about in his book. He was explaining that traditional cottages in Ireland have very tiny windows, partly to keep out the cold, but also partly to limit the amount of big picture beauty people could see at any one moment in time because, as you say, it is overwhelming and hard to focus on. When people came in and redid those cottages they put in huge windows, and when O’Donohue asked them about the light reflecting on the floor, or a particular angle of view, they didn’t have a clue.
      Thanks so much for being here, Nancy. I’m loving your posts.

  19. good on you- the beauty way – I am a lover of beauty and can generally find it see it feel it . living in the bush is very helpful in terms of being able to readily notice it. but like anything it is a skill that we can hone and it leads us directly to gratitude which is no small place to go and be at this time on our planet. nice to meet you.

    1. Hi Sandra, Well said that noticing beauty is a skill that we can hone. And that it leads to gratitude – no small thing.
      You write poetically so I just jumped over and looked at your A-Z posts about faeries. They look wonderful. I’ll be back to read and comment throughout the challenge.
      Thank you for being here.

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