Tag Archives: beauty

Puddle Jumping

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A tornado warning

in the morning

makes for a cautious day,

a rainbow of umbrellas

feebly joining in the fray

against the wind’s ill-tempered yawning.

Most are huddled ‘neath an awning,

but the ladies and their fellas

share umbrellas

anyway.

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Looking Up

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Do you see them?

It’s like the heavens hold the last sparks of a fireworks display in freeze frame.

As if someone ripped holes in the fabric of the sky to let pinpoints of light shine through from Whatever Waits just behind it.

We look up and we search them like we search the face of a traitor or a lover and we’re trying to figure out which one it is. We tear our eyes away, more mystified than we were when we first looked up. And we go back for more.

Scientifically, we know what they are: they are great spheres of fire, spinning end over end billions of miles away, powered by combustion and their own unrelenting velocity. They pull bits of the universe around them and turn them like tops in unending spirals. They roar into the blackness around them, spewing fire like dragons.

But to us, they are as silent as diamonds on velvet. Their collective song does not reach our ears. Yet without them, the world would hush, unless the rocks decided they must cry out.

And we stare up at them, wondering how the windows of all the planet’s bustling cities could be scattered like dust and stay forever frozen in the icy ocean we call the sky.

We stare and we wait.

And so few of us know exactly what we’re waiting for.

The Girl Manual

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Yes, there’s a Girl Manual. It’s a book that teaches girls how to be girls and keep at it through womanhood. Yes, I’ve read it.

Most of it, that is.

I skipped a few chapters. I paid close attention to the chapter on male-female interaction (which, despite my highlighting and dog-earing,did me little good). I read the chapter on emotional independence (even though I didn’t heed it much until late college). I frequently revisit the chapter on how to be a good daughter. I devoured the chapter on how to be an intelligent female (no matter what popular culture tells you you must be). I carefully marked all the sections on God’s view of women (a deeper love than most would imagine) and remind myself of those daily.

I skipped the chapter on cosmetology.

Sometimes, when I visit friends’ homes, I’ll enter the restroom to be confronted by a room of mysteries. Straighteners. Curlers. Tweezers. Powders. Creams. Minerals. Waxes. Lacquers. Highlighters. Lowlighters. Buffers. Trimmers. Sprays. Thousands of bottles and little tiny boxes for smearing and polishing and coloring and glueing and changing.

Most girls take delight in all of the above, own all of the above, and know how to use all of the above. I’m not trying to demean those ladies in any way. To each her own.

I’m just saying that I’ve never really understood what the fuss is all about. Is it to impress the men? Most girls would say “yes,” but most men (at least the ones I’ve asked) say they prefer an unpainted face to a painted one. So we’re trying to impress…each other?

Having struggled with persistent acne for over a year now (and some have struggled with it from adolescence onward), I can understand the desire to cover, to alter, to balance, to change. That I understand, perhaps now more than ever.

Most women believe they are ugly. That is why the cosmetology chapter exists.

(And most of us aren’t. Culture tells us we’re ugly and we need to change. That’s another post for another day.)

And even though most of the cosmetology chapter doesn’t make much sense to me, there is one part I wish I could master:

I wish I knew how to do cool things with my hair. I have a lot of it (it hasn’t been cut in a year), and it sort of hangs around my head in a quasi-wavy mane. It’s great, but it gets in may face, and putting it up rips the hair by my scalp and gives me wispy bangs. Pulling it back sometimes does the same. So usually I either let it hang, push it back with a headband, or so a side braid.

I dearly wish I could figure out how to do something with a little more variety. Something that doesn’t involve waking up at 5:30 to apply hot curlers (which I don’t have) or hairspray (which I don’t have) or a billion bobby pins (actually, I have about a billion of those, so there’s a start).

Maybe dreads….

Oil City Update

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Just in case any of you were wondering about how not washing my face was working out for me…

(I promise this will be short, but I figure there’s a fellow acne sufferer/hippy or three who follows The Rambler who would really be interested in knowing.)

…it worked surprisingly well.

I didn’t expect a miracle, but I got a little bit of one. After 2 and a half weeks of not washing my face, my skin stopped being oily, all the big red bumps went away, and almost all the little bumps were completely gone.

My skin was the clearest it’s been in over a year. No soap, no special expensive cleanser, no powder, barely even any water, but stopping the obsession and enjoying things like I did as a little kid when the only soap I used was body wash.

This lasted for a little over a week.

Then it all came back.

Well, not all of it. The oil came back, but not as much. A few nasty red bumps came back, but not as many.

It could be the shampoo. You can’t really keep that off your face when you shower, no matter how hard you try. So I switched to using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Yesterday. Still nothing on the face. We’ll see what happens. 

There you have it. Even though nothing on my face is perfect, I realize it doesn’t have to be. I feel a lot less encumbered, and getting ready in the morning only takes as long as picking an outfit and brushing my hair.

The experiment continues.

Stargazer

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Where wander you

star gazer

space walker

universe traverser

 

you look up to see your homeland

and I wish to follow where your eyes go

 

the earth is not enough for you

never was

no

no you want to jump

from moon

to sun

to mercury

 

your magic carpet

the milky way

 

you look up to see your homeland

and I wish to follow where your eyes go

 

universe traverser

space walker

star gazer

where wander you?

Lightning

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It rained today. In fact, it’s rained almost nonstop since March. Rain falls daily. Now that it’s tropical storm season, we’re getting daily thunderstorms, most of them at night.

Anytown is painfully muggy. So muggy, all you need to go swimming is to walk outside. I feel like I should be wearing scuba gear instead of sundresses.

However, the mugginess brings the fireflies out in droves. They come out to dance when the sun goes down, and they party all night. I dance with them, sometimes, smiling at the music of cicadas singing.

Tonight we had a doozy of a storm. Thunder rumbled and grumbled overhead for hours. There was lightning flashing in the heart of every cloud. Pyrotechnic party lights for the fireflies.

I drove home tonight, my stereo turned up loud enough that I could feel the music. I drove away from the firefly party, but the lights were still flashing in the clouds overhead. No bolt of lightning touched down, which was good. Those bolts are lovely, but they always mean that something gets hurt, whether it’s a person or a creature or a tree. The bolts that stay up in the clouds don’t hurt anything. They’re just beautiful.

Those elevated lightning bolts turn the clouds all shades of green and yellow and pink. Muted, of course, by the greyness of the cloud—but the colors are still there, pulsing, as if synched to music.

And far below, the little lightning bugs, unperturbed by the crackling storm, dance on.

Lightning above. Lightning below. 

Time Marches On

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There are few things weirder than looking at old pictures of yourself and wondering “what on earth happened?”

With other people, it’s one thing. Sometimes you’re shocked by the change that happens from pre-pubescence to post-pubescence, and sometimes you smile and say “man, she looks just the same.” Perhaps staying the same is a good thing, and perhaps not—usually that’s up to the viewer.

I haven’t changed much since I was a teenager. I changed a lot before high school, but then, after a growth spurt and significant weight loss, I became the Risabella I am today.

Well, sort of.

Out of curiosity, I flipped through a few pictures of my 16th birthday party, followed the senior portraits I got done with my friends. Then I looked at a few recent pictures and saw one crucial difference:

I look tired. Not different, really—perhaps and bit fuller in the face, and goodness knows my skin has seen better days—but I look tired. College has left me physically unchanged, except for being permanently tired.

And I’m wondering if that’s a bad thing. After all, time does what time does. Time changes things. Time leaves us tired. That’s just the way it works. To deny or to hide the fact that I will probably always look tired no matter how much sleep I get from this point on seems an exercise in futility.

I have two options: freak out about it, or embrace it.

Yes, I’m tired. I’m tired because I’ve worked very hard for three years to do the best I can academically. I’m tired because of a year and a half’s worth of intense interpersonal drama. I’m tired because I’m a night owl in a world of early-birds. I’m tired because my imagination keeps me up at night. I’m tired because I am incapable of taking naps. I’m tired because of the journey I chose to take. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, really, and the fact that I look tired is nothing to be concerned about.

I have a million blessings to count. Fretting about a physical change will get me nowhere. I know I’m preaching to myself—but there are others who feel the same thing, and I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be worried about looking tired. You’re tired because you’re working hard at something. You can’t control what time does to you, you can only control what you do in the time you have.

Apologies to Gandalf. 

Fireflies

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There’s a perfectly good reason why each of the creatures on God’s green earth exists. Spiders control the fly population, worms till the earth, bees make honey, deer keep the undergrowth in check, and bears keep the rivers from being overrun by salmon.

Fireflies, though, I’m fairly certain God created just ‘cause.

It’s finally warm enough in Anytown for the fireflies to start coming out to dance at night. I see them flickering on and off as they whirr aimlessly around our back yard.

My father and I have always called the “fairies.” When I was small, we’d go out and catch them and put them in a jar overnight before letting them go the next morning. I will always believe in fairies.

They’re beautiful things, fireflies. They make summer nights magical. Every season has something about it that makes the night times lovely. In winter, there’s the icy clarity of the stars overhead, and maybe snow if you’re fortunate. In autumn there’s the smell of burning leaves that lingers in the air long after the fire has died. In spring there’s the heavy smell of blooming flowers and the clean scent that follows the rain. In summer, there are fireflies.

Other than making summer nights beautiful, however, they have no real purpose. They glow, and that is all. They don’t have a very crucial role in the ecosystem. The world would carry on just fine without the fireflies.

But summer nights would be so sad without them.

What does that say about God, that He would choose to make something just because it is beautiful? If the world made itself, like so many people believe, and the only things that survived are the things that fought to survive, then why do creatures like fireflies exist? Why would evolution form a flying thing that glows? What purpose does it serve? None. If the world really evolved the way people think it did, than only the functional things would remain. It makes far more sense that a wise, creative God would, at the beginning of the world, decide that there would be beautiful things, and not merely functional ones.

Hence fireflies.

I can’t wait to go out and catch one. 

Beauty at Its Best

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Half of the world’s dilemma is that so few of us know the difference between what makes a beautiful person and what doesn’t.

There’s a teacher at our school who rarely goes a lecture hour without mentioning his wife. To hear him talk, she’s the most beautiful creature that ever walked the earth. Whenever he says her name, he says it with a kind of awed reverence. He never describes her outright, but always notes her kindness, her gentleness, her strength, and her wisdom. He tells us what a wonderful mother she is, and about her bravery in the face of multiple miscarriages. All of us eager listeners automatically conjure up an image of what we think she must be like. We assimilate an image based on the beauty we find in the women of advertisements and movies, filled in with scraps of his description. The result is a picture of a woman that is beautiful, but might look like any number of other beautiful women on the planet.

When we see her on one of the occasions she comes to the university campus, a few of us might be surprised that this paragon of a woman doesn’t look quite the way we had imagined her. She is a lovely woman, but is by no means the mixture of Galadriel and Mary Jane Watson we had in our heads. It is clear she’s had children; her eyes are tired-looking; her honey-blonde hair is disheveled; her clothes have the faded look of someone who has forgone shopping for clothes in favor of shopping for diapers. By the world’s (perverted) standards, she is not an exceptional beauty. Regardless, every student on this campus regards her with the same kind of awed reverence as her husband, our teacher. Because he adores his wife, we do, too. We cannot help but see her as being incredibly beautiful.

By contrast, there are thousands of women in the music, modeling, and acting industries who are lauded for their beauty, their sex appeal, their hair, nails, or choice of designer clothing—but can be lauded for nothing more than that. There is little virtue there, precious little depth of character, and, more often than not, negligible skill.  They are often unkind, indulgent, bound to damaging addictions, and obsessed with themselves. Yet these are the women we see on magazine covers, billboards, widescreens, and runways. These are the women the world applauds.

If the world had on the right set of glasses, this would not be the case. Women like my professor’s wife would be the ones on the magazine covers. Not just because they are outwardly lovely, but because their inner loveliness shines out of every word they say, making the world around them beautiful. Their love for others makes them lovely, and that is the greatest beauty of all.

Sweet Disappointment

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My fellow Anytown-dwellers can tell you it didn’t snow today. All the UU students went to their classes in spite of enticing, but misguided, predictions of snow. Ah, well, we thought. Better luck next year.

The fact that the day didn’t go as planned doesn’t imply a bad day, however. Sometimes a day can go better than expected. Instead of snow, there may be bright but chilly sunshine. An uplifting lunch with a friend. A brisk, invigorating run. Hours of beautiful music. Reminiscing with an appreciative audience. Rediscovering a bag of chocolate. A good laugh with old friends. The anticipation of more tomorrow. Laughter, that is, although running into old friends wouldn’t be unwelcome.

No day is a mediocre day. I think we often trick ourselves into believing in the myth of the “average” day. No day is average, really. Each day happens once. Each day you wake up and your heart is somehow still beating even though it’s been going nonstop for years. The sun is still shining (even if it’s behind clouds and hiding its face for the moment), despite the fact it’s been burning for an insanely long count of years. The world we live in is full of people, each one unique and beloved of God, and variety is one of the many fragrant spices of life. If one is awake to the little wonders of every day, then no day can really be called mediocre. In fact, under those circumstances, every day can truly be called a miracle.

So there was no snow. A minor disappointment. Life, in all its wonder and beauty, goes on. That’s hardly disappointing at all.

Timeless, Thank You

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One of my roommates is the champion of out-of-the-blue questions. Five seconds ago, she asked me:

“Rizzy? How old are you?”

I get this question a lot. In fact, I have been asked this question since I was about fourteen. It is never asked in the condescending tone of an adult asking a child her age out of habit (“And just how old are you, little girl?”), even though any guess the adult makes will probably be accurate. No, people ask me this question because they are genuinely confused: “Just how old are you anyway?”

I suppose I can understand the confusion. I’m tall and I have a deeper voice than most people expect from a teen or a twenty-year-old. In school plays I was passed over for the romantic heroine and given the role of mother, evil queen, or irritable spinster on account of just how low my voice was. I have never dressed my age, since the styles designed for teens and early 20-somethings have never really appealed to me. Since I was a little child, I was brought up in an environment of mostly adults, having neither siblings nor much interaction with children my age outside of school, where interaction was kept in close check. As a result, I have always acted older than I am. This isn’t really a point of pride, it’s just the way things are.

In junior high, people assumed I was in high school. Once in high school, I was mistaken for a college senior or a graduate student. I was asked to the junior-senior banquet as a sophomore because the poor boy thought I was a junior. Random people in stores mistook me for a salesclerk or the manager, often with hilarious results. Boys as much as five years older than me would innocently ask for my number, only to discover to their horror that I was no more than fifteen.

Now that I’m in college, the assumption that I’m older has become less flattering. At a rehearsal last semester I noticed a fellow cast member looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Twenty,” I replied. I knew what was coming next.

“Oh,” she said, still looking puzzled. “I thought you were older.”

So did other members of the cast, it seems. I was almost immediately adopted by all of the graduate students on the cast because they thought I was one of them. The people on the cast who are my age ignore me for the most part, and I can only assume that it’s for the same reason: they think I’m older, and therefore unapproachable. I’m a junior, people. I twenty-year-old junior in college.

The most distressing misunderstanding I’ve encountered was while I was in Croatia. One of the student’s mothers asked (through her son, who was translating) how old I was. When I told her, she and the group of mothers she was with laughed loudly and chattered something in Croatian. I looked to the son for an explanation, he looked me in the eye and said:

“She thought you were thirty.”

I looked at myself long and hard in the mirror that night. I try very hard to fight the female tendency to be vain, but that night I confess to being genuinely worried. Worried, and confused. I have no wrinkles. No crow’s feet. No laugh lines. No grey hair. Sure, I’m not as skinny as most girls my age, but how does size determine how old one looks? Is it the low voice, I wondered? The bags under my eyes that I inherited from my father? The hair cut? Should I do more sit-ups?

Just what does twenty look like, anyway? Is there a standard? Judging by what I know of popular culture, the “standard” for being twenty isn’t anything I want to emulate. And I won’t. I can only be myself and become what God wants me to be.

But I am genuinely curious as to why people think I’m so much older than I am.

I can see myself in twenty years, still wearing tiered skirts in bright colors, walking into a restaurant and taking a seat, browsing through the menu until the twenty-something waitress bounces over to the table to take my order. When I ask her for the Greek salad, she’ll politely inform me that she can only get me a senior discount on the day’s special, and would I rather have that instead? I will tell her no thank you, I’m only forty, you whippersnapper, and I want the Greek salad, thank you very much. She’ll apologize profusely. I will go home and cuddle my cats for an hour and feel much better.

I don’t understand why I’m mistaken for a thirty-year-old. But I can choose to laugh at the situation and not despair over it. At least not yet.

People

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I am surrounded by wonderful people.

My best friend is Mary Poppins reincarnated. She has this magical way of knowing how to get everything done in a limited amount of time. She’s the most prepared woman I know. If it’s not in her purse, you probably don’t really need it. She can survive for weeks on end functioning on only three hours of sleep a night and can still be cheerful with all of the people she interacts with at her retail job. She is Wonderwoman.

My roommate is always sunny. She can be laid low by the worst kind of sniffles and still be thinking about you over herself. She always walks a though her head is in the clouds, off in some dream world where all of the things she needs to do are magically getting done. When she finally lights somewhere, she sits down and diligently does all those things, even though she’d rather be writing.

I know a guy who inspires me to care more about what God thinks of me than what others think of me. He doesn’t know this. He is the kind of person who takes individuality very seriously—as well as taking God very seriously. He is artistic and wacky and talented and plain old different. His differentness rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in high school. He doesn’t know this, but he was the one who made me want to be different, and that blending in is not the chief end of man. Although his refined fashion sensibilities would probably make him turn up his nose at my outfit selection of electric blue tights and a bright orange shirt, little does he know that he is responsible for this peculiar arrangement.

One of my supervisors at work is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met. During meetings I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m paying attention to what she’s saying, and not just watch her Lucille-Ball-esque facial expressions. She is articulate, vivacious, and rigidly diligent, which are several traits worth admiring. What’s more, she always treats her workers like her children. Not a holiday goes by when she doesn’t give us all goody bags or bring in candy or something homemade. And she is an expert on knowing the best time to give a person whose heart is hurting a hug.

A coworker of mine is the kind of guy who is everyone’s big brother. He is what some might call a natural leader: people follow him readily without him forcing them to. His sense of humor is gently teasing, but he never teases to put people down or make people feel as though they’ve said something out of turn when they were just trying to be funny. He is not exclusive, and says “Hello” to anyone whose face he recognizes. He is one of the few people I know who, when he asks “How are you?”, can ask the question genuinely.

And there are hundreds and hundreds more in this square mile of campus alone who are just as kind, thoughtful, talented, and inspiring. I’ve only mentioned a handful. That’s all I have time for. It’s just that it occurred to me today that I spend altogether too much time thinking about myself. Dwelling on myself for too long is a waste of time, considering there are all of these fascinating and brilliant people around me whose lives are bright, beautiful, and unique—and much more deserving of my mental energies.

There are beautiful people in your life as well, reader. Can you think of a face? Can you remember a name? Can you forget yourself long enough to ponder the loveliness of another of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creations?