On Notre Dame, Tea, and Beauty

By Tuesday, April 23, 2019 ,

Happy spring, readers! At least, it’s spring where I am and I’m loving it for as long as it’ll stay. Spring is one of those seasons that reawakens me to the beauty of the world and encourages me to find joy in things that may seem small, but when I take time for them, they add a little more beauty, calm, and happiness to my days.

I’ve also been thinking more about the general concept of beauty in the wake of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve never been to Paris and I’m not Catholic, but I still felt weighty sadness as I watched the videos of the cathedral’s spire collapsing. The images of the damage are a bit haunting to me. I feel sad to think of the beauty and art that’s been lost in that fire. And I think that’s a good thing. Notre Dame has stood for more than 850 years and represents faith and resilience to many people. Its walls have witnessed the prayers, baptisms, marriages, and celebrations of millions through the years. Its bells have called people to worship for centuries and have signaled the end of world wars. I believe it is right to recognize that much has been lost in the fire and to grieve for it. In fact, the outpouring of solidarity and sadness has given me some hope – hope that we are still awake and sensitive to truly valuable and beautiful things. My prayer is that more people will realize that beauty in this world is meant to point us to the most beautiful One of all, the Giver of all true beauty. 

Photo Credit: www.historicalwallpapers.blogspot.com

In light of that, I’ve been trying to recognize the beauty around me, big and small. I’m fortunate to live in a city full of historic monuments, and this past week was a reminder not to take them for granted. I also believe in finding beauty in the small things, so I wanted to share a few of them with you.

Walking clears my head, gets me away from the neverending distractions of working on a computer all day, and gives me time with my current audiobook! I’ll take more reading time in any form. And in spring weather, a walk outside is truly good for the soul. Where I am, flowers are everywhere, and the sun is bright and warming without being oppressive yet. Can it stay?

I’ve always liked candles, but it’s only recently that I’ve realized how happy they make me when I really use them. Sure, they look pretty when they sit on a shelf, but the glow and scent when they’re burning have become some of my favorite things. I now try to light one every morning as I’m eating breakfast and reading. It’s now a part of my routine that’s truly soothing and helps me relax when I’m tempted to rush or stress. And since I can’t ever have enough literary references, I’ve gone literary even with my candles – thanks to Scent Pop Candles, my house smells amazing and I now have the occasional daydream of quitting everything and inventing scents for every fictional character and quote I’ve ever liked. Anyone with me?

Piano Music
Simple piano tunes have been doing wonders for my peace of mind lately. Whether I’m working, doing my makeup in the morning, or eating breakfast, a calming bit of piano in the background helps me slow down, focus, and be present. It also sets a great mood for leisure activities, like reading or a cup of afternoon tea. Speaking of which…

“what she says: would you like to have tea?
“what she means: would you like to share a moment of peace and quietude with me? Participate together in a ritual of sanity in a world of disorder? Defy the indignity of the modern world? Also, I have biscuits.”

This was recently tweeted by my favorite online presence at the moment, the inimitable Joy Clarkson. As it turns out, she also did a whole podcast on tea, which I highly encourage you to enjoy here. I agree with every sentiment Joy expresses about a good cup of tea – it’s more than just a nice drink that posh people made popular a few centuries ago. Slowly and surely, tea has become pretty meaningful to me over the years.

Shoutout to my dear friend Jolie for knowing how to lay a tea. I'm catching up slowly.

Unlike many from the deep south, I did not grow up with sweet tea, so my first real exposure to tea was during a trip to Ireland in high school. Thanks to Joy’s podcast, I now know that Ireland outranks every other country for most cups of tea per person in a day. I can easily believe that, because during my trip, it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be drinking much of anything while in Ireland if I didn’t drink tea. Soon, I loved the ritual and communal aspect of it. Lingering after an evening meal over a cup of tea and stopping at various times throughout the day to enjoy tea and biscuits (or cookies if you’re American ;)) encourages you to slow down and breathe and take pleasure in your surroundings and current company. I’ve learned to appreciate these aspects of tea even more as an adult and think most people would do well to learn from it. I honestly believe that cultures that value tea are far more patient than others because tea is a ritual that requires time – you have to wait for the water to boil, wait for the tea to steep, take time to add your milk and sugar, and sip slowly so it doesn’t scald your mouth. Enjoy it all, friends!

That said, I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tea preparation and the time it takes to drink tea. My recent travels to England have endeared it to me all the more since the British obviously take it so seriously. I had several pretty grand teatimes between my two trips, and I’ve also been inspired to try more flavors and experiment with loose leaf. All that to say, anyone for tea? I’ve got peach, Royal Blend, Earl Grey, Wedding Breakfast, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, and there can only ever be more to try.

Have a beauty-filled week, friends. I'd love to hear about what helps you notice the beauty in your days too.

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