It’s summer so we have left our desks and we’re throwing ourselves into Beauty: diving into waves or paragliding into the big blue from cliffs or lying in long grasses or basking in the sun or losing ourselves in music or reuniting with loved ones. And so if we write, let’s write about something beautiful too, not necessarily something we can see but something we feel, such as beautiful timing, like when you walk around a street corner wrapped in your own thoughts and an old friend walks into you from the other direction and suddenly you’re not in your own self at all, but laughing and embracing and being embraced. Or one of those times you’re just listening to some old playlist and reading a book and you turn the page and fall into Shocking Events right as one track flips into another devastating one and the track and the words synchronise to beautifully catastrophic effect.
Or we could write about beautiful sensations such as the welcome heavy heat of a bath closing over your face or talking of heat what about the way when you lie on your back in the grass on a hot day your body grills and sweats on one side while underneath you stay cool, pressed against the dank earth; and then you can turn over of course, which is beautiful, that you can turn over and push your face into the cool grass. And what about beautiful smells, such as lemon and orange slices and roasting almonds – smells so beautiful, before you know it if you write about those beautiful things, you’ll be writing about drinking a cocktail eating spiced and home-toasted snacks and probably writing about sitting on a beautiful flat roof outside someone’s bedroom window, covered in sun oil that smells beautifully of coconut.
You could write about how beautiful it feels to get clean in a shower when you’re covered in sun cream and sweat and grass; or you could write about how beautiful it is to see dirt, such as mud on kids’ knees and feet when they have been playing outside and nobody’s been telling them what not to do for quite a few beautiful hours; or dirt under your own fingernails when you’ve been digging around in the earth looking for potatoes or yanking up weeds or trying to make some impression or other on the beautiful world and it might not have felt beautiful at the time but my goodness that dirt is proof of some good hard beautiful work and you feel pretty beautiful tonight.
Let’s not bother with those beautiful young radiant types; let’s write about how beautiful it is, to see a woman whose skin has started to crease at the elbows or at the eyes or some other spot where the skin is thin and she’s brown and she doesn’t give a damn frankly. Or an old man, dancing, possibly badly, with passion and commitment, lost in the music: that’s always beautiful.
Yes dancing is always beautiful, so you can write about doing or watching any kind of dancing if you like: some things are just never unbeautiful, not just dancing but also people asleep, with their dogs curled up on the bed with them; and wildflowers growing in unlikely places; and children with their arms wrapped around pretty much anything; or people going wild at a concert; and it’s really very hard to make sea swimming unbeautiful but I suppose someone could, but maybe not you, not today.
Everyone knows the sun and sky are beautiful but let’s not forget them – shall we write about one of those evenings or mornings when the sun and the sky seem to demand attention – Hey! Look at us! We are the most beautiful, look how pink and orange we can be, like mango sorbet or raspberry! You could write about other beautiful things such as love, or relief, or involuntarily getting to your feet to give someone a standing ovation and maybe secretly crying a little bit with joy as you do it; or how beautiful it is to come home after a long absence; or the beauty of finding the first sweet blackberries of the year and sharing them with someone; or the beautiful hills in Tuscany; or finding some beautiful thing you thought you had lost; or blowing out candles on a cake; or how beautiful it is to stick your head out of a car window on a cool night after a hot day; or for a kid to run at you so that you are the thing he has his arms wrapped around; or the sound of people on the street laughing; or strangers catching one another’s eye and smiling.
And then when we come back to our desks, we can try to carry some of the summer Beauty back with us so that it illuminates us as we work into the long winter evenings and warms our correspondence with one another and heats our passion for the things we are working on. That’s what Beauty is for surely, after all, this is what summer is for, surely, after all: light collecting, heat collecting, building up our stores again, for winter.