In the mornings, I look after my 2-year-old son, Gabriel. Almost every day we go out. Mostly, we walk the 10 minutes it takes to get to the sea front in Newlyn; the play park is there.
Last week, walking home, I saw the decaying flower head of a hydrangea on the floor.
I am totally entranced by fading flowers.
I stopped and picked up the head. I held it in my hand and admired it. I showed Gabriel. When I got home, amidst the wiping off sand, removing little shoes and carrying in buckets and spades, I managed to get the hydrangea head onto my art table.
That afternoon, I planned to paint.
I got to my art table ready to throw myself into the available 60 minutes I had. The hydrangea head lay there. I looked at it and slowed down. Time and pressure melted away.
I just couldn’t stop staring.
There is so much beauty in decay.
The sky was clear that day and the autumn sun warm; its rays were streaming in the open back door and laying their fronds across where I stood. There was a stray piece of cream watercolour paper on my desk. I placed the faded head on the paper and suddenly everything stopped.
The beauty that I chase every conscious moment of my life appeared before me:
Whatever my heart is filled with poured out in front of me, my pulse quickened and I was filled with joy, awe and peace.
I reverently held the flower head in my hand and slowly twirled it around, mesmerised by the shadow that was playing out on the paper.
Moments like this are irreplaceable for me; Chasing Beauty is the biggest motivator in my life. It has been all along; when I was a 7-year old chosing colours to complete my geometric colouring book, when I up-ended my life and moved to to another country, when I decided to stop colouring my hair.
Even in my ‘dark’ days – the times in my life where I felt constrained and far away from myself – Chasing Beauty was there. As an obese teenager, I spent every Sunday singing in a church choir, transported by the communal music creation. When I was working for Microsoft, I took lunch-time walks along the Thames, bathing in the greens and browns around me. When I lay in bed for weeks on end with neck pain, I slowly formulated a plan to get myself to Italy, the place I’d always wanted to live.
I used to think that what quickened my pulse was invalid; frivolous.
The last 20 years of my life have been an un-folding of that myth: Beauty is anything but frivolous.
Chasing Beauty brings more peace, more love and more joy – not just to you and your world, but through the changes it makes in you, to those you love and by extension everything around you.