I was looking for a file for an assignment on Hamlet this afternoon and came across this thing I wrote for one of my classes a few years ago. I’ll often write alongside my students on an assignment, or model something before-hand. But I’d forgotten about this. I thought I’d share it here since it has to do with Peat, and because it’s not only about him or birds. The other thing I talk about might connect somehow to bird hunting. Maybe it doesn’t. But it’s part of who I am, or was, or will be. What’s beautiful to you? As avid bird hunters, surely we see many things outside the terrain of partridges that move us. For this assignment, I asked students to 1) define beauty, and 2) describe the most beautiful thing. This was my response to both.
Definition of beauty: beauty is a feeling of being overwhelmed by pleasure in something. It could be a thought or idea, a physical object, a landscape, a smell, a whole person or creature, an experience, a sound that lasts just an instant or an entire concert of music, or a physical sensation. It could be almost anything, but whatever it is, words cannot adequately describe the beauty. Words fall short. Otherwise, beauty wouldn’t be beautiful; it would be ordinary.
The most beautiful thing to me is: it’s a toss-up between two things. The first is watching my puppy go on point, and the second is watching a stranger help someone who is having trouble with something. I picked the first because I love Peat (my puppy) but can’t explain what that love is made up of except to say that it’s the whole experience of getting him at 7 weeks old and wanting to kill him nearly every day for his first year or so but working through that, and realizing that every night he calms down and presses himself against me in bed and passes out from exhaustion and has fur that’s softer than God should have been allowed to make; this little guy’s bird-finding instincts are miraculous and when he’s looking for them and suddenly finds them what he does is even more miraculous and beautiful: he freezes instantly in the weirdest posture, with his neck bowed to the ground and his nose up, and one of his front paws is lifted daintily off the ground, and he will not move until the birds fly. See, I’ve tried to explain what’s so beautiful about this, and even if I wrote ten million words, they couldn’t adequately express the feeling of beauty to me. The second thing is similar to the first in that I can’t really describe how moving it is to see a stranger help someone in need. There’s just something about seeing that that makes me feel the world is okay and that people really are good, or can be. In a world where you usually notice how mean people can be, and how most people, strangers, seem to be out for themselves and screw everybody else (especially when they’re driving!), it’s overwhelming to see the opposite, partly because it’s kind of rare but also because it shows we can love without judging, and there’s something about that that is so good I could never in a million years describe it.