Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Where I live may not be beautiful, but I find beauty where I live.

A few days ago, I posted on my facebook wall, "Where I live may not be beautiful, but I find beauty where I live." It's true -- Shamgona is not a beautiful place. Even though this is a semi-tropical climate, many of the trees have dropped their leaves. All the crops and vines are nothing but brown twigs right now. There are some hardy roses blooming, and the citrus trees still have fruit that has not yet been picked; but those are the only bursts of color in the yards that line the flat village road. Other than that, there are only dusty, barren fields and grey-green cedars and some scattered palm trees. The sun doesn't climb high enough in the sky right now to fully light the day. But amid the dust and dingy grey-ness, I have zero-ed in on some gems.

Yesterday as I ran, I thought about this concept of finding beauty in a place that is not beautiful. And as I looked around I had a thought -- if I took a photograph looking down my road, you would see only a brown stretch of mud/rocks/pot holes/animal droppings lined by rusty fences and bare trees. Not a pretty picture. However, with a zoom lens, I could find small treasures that are hidden in the whole dismal scene. I made a list of some of those treasures that I noticed today - each is a "snapshot" in which I have abandoned the wide-angle scene to focus on a moment or thing of beauty.

This morning when my alarm went off, I thought I had set it for the wrong time. The sky outside was still pitch-black, and the moon was shining brightly into my window. The light from the moon was so bright, it beckoned to me to get out of bed and look at it. The winter solstice full moon hung in the sky like a silver pendant glowing with light so bright, it cast shadows. I stood blinking in my half-awake state, wondering if I had ever seen the moon shine so purely (if it were a pendant and I could have turned it over, it surely would have a stamp of "925" on it). It seemed to be the only thing that existed in that field of black. (My alarm wasn't wrong. I had to get up.)

About an hour later as I walked to school, the sun was finally rising. The salmon-tinged horizon in front of me was interrupted by the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The mountains were still in shadow, so they looked like flat, grey cut-outs set against a backdrop. But as the sun climbed slowly higher, its rays hit the peaks and lit the snow with a pink fire. The bright spots grew and spread from the tops, tracing paths of light down the slopes, creating depth in the masses of rock and snow. By the time I arrived at school, I was so awestruck by the slowly spreading light, I had to stop for a minute to watch the sunlit snow spots grow just a little bigger.

An eleventh-grade student asked if we would have conversation group after school today. I told her that I couldn't have it today because I had to go to a workshop in Zugdidi, but that we would have it tomorrow instead. Her eyes and smile lit the room. She had dance class after school, so she couldn't have come if I had the group today. She was thrilled to be able to come tomorrow.

I still can't have much conversation with the teachers at school who don't speak English. Today, as one of the ladies was walking by me, I smiled at her. She reached out and affectionately patted my cheek.

Tea, Lika, and I went to a teacher's workshop at the Educational Resource Center in Zugdidi. There were 14 national teachers in attendance to learn more about teaching speaking skills. As I listened to everyone speak, I was filled with pride for my two co-teachers - their English is the best around!

When the workshop was over, I left the Resource Center with a few of the teachers. While walking down the sidewalk, one of them started singing a line of "Jingle Bell Rock" in very broken English. I joined in and we walked along singing away.

In a garden, perfect white roses on deep green stems stood in contrast against a rusty fence.

Driving back into Shamgona, we approached the bridge into the village. An older man was walking away from the river carrying a fishing rod. The tweed hat that he wore matched his sport-coat. The rubber boots that his pant-legs were tucked into looked a little funny in comparison with the rest of his outfit, but what drew me to him, were his eyes. He had kind, gentle eyes. Eyes that told a hundred stories about life and love.....and maybe fishing.

Against the late-day azure sky, the disused, rusted railroad bridge looked particularly striking.

We had to stop in the middle of the road for some cows who were waiting for their gate to be opened. The last rays of sunlight shone from behind them, outlining them in feathery wreaths of fur.

The sun went down behind a stand of bare trees. It glowed through the filigree of branches like an drop of liquid gold.

While I was sitting at the kitchen table drawing some pictures to use in class tomorrow, Elene (my 7-year-old shadow who was in a sour mood most of the evening) came and leaned against me, watching me work. The warmth and solidity of her presence filled me with joy.

Throughout the rest of this dark, dreary winter, I want to continue looking through the figurative "zoom lens" instead of the "wide-angle lens." Beauty is all around, if I only focus on it.

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