I have a friend who lives a few states away.  When the impacts of the pandemic started being felt strongly in the US, we decided to text each other an image of beauty each day.  Because of who we are and what we love, it is almost always beauty in the more than human world (with some random exceptions, like brand ‘new’ compost bins made from reclaimed pallets).  Every day, no matter how tired or overwhelmed or sad I feel, I know I need to find one image of beauty.  And it turns out that every day, no matter or tired or overwhelmed or sad I am, I rarely need to go more than a few minutes walk from my door to find that beauty.  Every day, I receive a beautiful image from hundreds of miles away, also not far from my friend’s door.  So at least twice a day, my brain shifts a little bit and my world expands–no matter how hard this is and no matter how much suffering is happening across the world, there is also tremendous beauty. It helps me hold perspective.

Because our focus is on beauty in nature, I am finding myself more closely connected with my immediate landscape.  I’m deeply tuned into my perennial flower beds as the plants emerge slowly from soil, the shapes, colors, and textures of each a thing of beauty all its own.  Would I be so in touch with these plants, which are emerging when and how quickly, without this practice?  I doubt it.  I’m paying more attention to my surroundings on our constant dog walks, seeking out and noticing colorful lichen or trees with interesting shapes.  What a restorative way for my brain to be engaged!  After all these many days in close proximity, my partner also is now aware of my daily beauty search, and will point out the beauty he notices as well–shifting his brain and our connection in positive ways at the same time.

This practice also keeps me very much connected to a dear friend.  In the first couple weeks, we each sometimes missed a day or two and thought little of it.  But as the weeks have gone by, we’ve embedded this practice in our daily routines.  Now, I notice that if don’t have an image of beauty from her by late afternoon/early evening, some little ping in my system wonders how she is and notes that I should check on her that day or the next.  Most times, I receive an image soon, but a couple times I haven’t and that’s the signal to reach out and connect in a stronger way, with a phone call or direct text that queries well-being.  I think her system has developed a similar subtle alert system, as I’ve noticed her reaching out to me at the end of the day if I haven’t yet sent along an image.  This practice feels like a gentle and authentic way to have each other’s back that doesn’t require yet another Zoom date or conversation about the painful ins and outs of pandemic life.  Of course, we need those conversations sometimes, and a delayed or missing image lets us know when.  But most times, we connect first, and often only, through beauty.  I notice my body easing as I write that sentence.  With so much pain inside and all around, having a primary human connection through beauty is such a tremendous gift!

Weeks ago, this was sort of just a silly thing we were doing to make each other smile at first, but it’s become a primary resource and light for me as the days and weeks go on.  I encourage you to find a friend or family member near or far, or maybe even a small group of loved ones, who would be excited to share an image of beauty each day.  It’s one of the easiest ways to feel more personally grounded and deeply connected to your people and your planet that I know.