You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Saturday, 20 August 2016

of Washing Up, Interrupted by Unexpected and Astounding Beauty



One of my biggest frustrations in the pursuit of blogging is the failure of a photographic image to match up to reality as I perceive it. I see something, and I want to share it with you. So I take a photo, but when I look at the image I have captured, it doesn’t look at all like what I was seeing. And so I can’t share the experience, and I give up on the fledgling blog post. I have tried a few different devices in my search for verisimilitude, and I don’t know if the better camera is producing a ‘better’ image or not, to me, it’s just another version of the image that’s not the one I saw.
I went to start doing the dishes a little while ago, (as one must, repeatedly, apparently) and I was struck with one of those moments that I wanted to share with you. Beauty can always be found in the most unexpected and unappealing places, even in the dirty dishes in the sink.
There was a bowl. It had been filled with peaches and cream, and then when it was empty, filled with water and left in the sink. And a butterfly had landed in it, and just stayed there, lying flat, no doubt stuck to the water by the opalescent, shimmering scum of the cream on the surface of the water.
Well, it probably would technically be a moth if I bothered to find out which it was. But it was so beautiful, I have to call it a butterfly. It was so beautiful, I wanted to share it with you. So I got my camera, and took some pictures, and they look absolutely nothing like the butterfly and the bowl of creamy water that I could see. But something as unexpected as the butterfly itself happened – the photos are beautiful images too, even if they are different to what I saw. I could see that. So I’m sharing them with you anyway, even though they are not the beautiful sight I saw in my kitchen sink tonight.
These are taken with the flash,


… and these are without the flash. Just more versions of something I didn’t see, but all beautiful.


I stared at the butterfly for so long. It’s like I was trying to fill my eyes up with the perfection of its beauty while it so fleetingly existed, to imprint it in my mind that I could always recall it and thus hold the experience forever. I tried to understand what about it made it so perfect and so beautiful, but the nature of perfect, fleeting beauty is not to be understood, but marvelled at. I marvelled. There were the delicate brush strokes of a fine Chinese brush flowing along the wings, the antique hues of sepia, earth and umber. There was the silk-shiny sheen, shaded by the muffled, faded, matte patches on the underwings where the top wings would rub against them. There were the countless layers of geometric patterns in the wing design and the shape of the creature’s body itself, unfolding as I stared, like a shifting kaleidoscope. I could see the antennae as being like rows of eyelashes, rather than unaugmented prongs, and I could imagine how it felt to feel things through them. Time and space fell away and the whole universe revealed itself, floating in a bowl in the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.
I had to tear myself away, eventually, as dishes won’t wash themselves, it turns out, no matter how beautiful the butterflies may be. I really meant to wash all the dishes, sacrificing the beauty of the butterfly to a fate that was already foregone. But somehow I managed to wash all the dishes except that one bowl, and it’s still sitting in the sink, full of creamy water and beautiful butterfly. I know it can’t stay – but I can’t bring myself to be the agent of its demise. I’m hoping that Mr CJ will disturb it with his next dirty dish, and I won’t have to witness it. I’ll get up in the morning, and it will be gone.
I wanted to share it with you. I can’t show you or tell you exactly what I saw, but I can share with you that it was beautiful, and that it was awesome, and that will just have to do.