In praise of beauty... 2014.09.24


I was reminded this weekend about the quilt gardens along the Heritage Trail in northern Indiana which follows roads from Shipshewana to Goshen to Nappanee to Elkhart to Bristol to Middlebury and back to Shipshewana. 

A reader had saved an article I’d written four years ago about the gardens of flowers planted to look like quilts, and an amazing quilt store with the most exquisite quilts. The reader had visited the Quilt Designs store in Goshen and had the same sheer-joy-and-wonder experience David and I had had...maybe even more so since the quilt designer was present when she visited. 

The beauty and master workmanship in those quilts was a sight to behold and just filled my spirit. Beauty does that to me.

I am endlessly impressed by the beauty of the natural world: sunsets, cloud formations, fall foliage, tropical fish, rock formations, flowers, forests—just an infinite list of beauty in so many facets. But, I am touched even more by manmade beauty. That fallible creatures such as humans can produce such wondrous things that rival what God has put forth before us’s just amazing to me.

The Adrian Symphony Orchestra had the same effect on me Sunday afternoon during the “One Singular Sensation: A Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch” concert, guest conducted by J. Ernest Green with vocalists Valerie Lemon and Rocky Paterra. 

Nearly 60 musicians created such beautiful melodious sound...each adding to the whole, kind of like humanity—everyone having a role to play. It reminds me of a children’s book I read to my kids and now to my grandkids, “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.” It’s all part of the beauty of life.

The Symphony played several pieces from “A Chorus Line” that sounded familiar and then nostalgia really took over when Valerie Lemon started singing “What I Did For Love” which brought back the lyrics from my days as a student participating in “Senior Sing!” at John Bowne High School in Flushing, New York. 

I grew up in the Bronx, but I attended school in Queens, in Flushing, for the agriculture program housed in a regular district high school. I spent those high school years as an “Aggie.” We were not quite ostracized by the rest of the school, maybe looked upon more with bemusement. Every year there was a big competition among the grades called Sing and each grade produced a musical, which I think was totally student-produced. 

I didn’t participate until my senior year and only because a bunch of my Aggie friends were doing it. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. But it seemed like the thing to do senior year...experience a school tradition. The music for the songs we sang came from Broadway musicals and the lyrics were altered. So, “What I Did for Love” became “What I Did for Bowne.” 

“Won’t forget, can’t regret, what I did for Bowne.”

Except I did forget...and consulting my yearbook didn’t provide the answers to all my questions. I turned to a few of my high school friends on Facebook’s group message feature. Amy confirmed that students ran the whole show and she even remembered the altered lyrics: “Kiss John Bowne goodbye, and point me towards tomorrow, wish me luck the same to you, still I can't regret what I did for Bowne, what I did for Bowne.” 

“And what the heck was our role in those shapeless costumes?” I asked the group.

Amy responded, “As for what you guys were doing in those outfits, were you the emotional society? I suppose they just wanted some cheap and easy choices for costumes! The ones we had for the Physical society required someone with sewing skills!”

Emotional and physical societies? I didn’t even remember the overriding theme of our production or my group’s part in it.

My friend Liz had a theory about our role.

“They just threw all the Aggies and anyone else they assumed had no talent into that third group,” she said. “Amy musta had a connection to get into the dance group. We were supposed to be a bunch of misfits/throwaways.”

“Was that typecasting?” asked Adrienne.

And then she and Liz launched into their own exchange before Liz dug down into her memories.

“Oh and don't get me wrong, I didn't mean to imply that Amy just had a connection, Amy could definitely dance...but hey, I had 8 years of ballet and tap lessons and I could dance too...better than some of the others in Amy's group—not Amy of, I'm not bitter. LOL.”

“Glad to see you let that go Dear…” Adrienne responded.

“Liz, why did we join Sing? None of us besides Amy had ever done it before, right?”

“I can only speak for myself as to why I joined,” she said. “I was having a difficult year emotionally, very depressed for the first part of senior year, and then I decided to snap out of my shell and join stuff, and Sing was on my list—I don't know if you remember I went on a total health kick, lost a ton of weight, made a lot of changes. Then I still wound up in that stupid group of misfits anyway...oh well, at least I was in it.”

“I'm sorry you ended up with the misfits,” I replied. “And here's how much a misfit I am...I didn't even know I was in a group of misfits! I was just happy to be part of a stage production doing something I'd never done before with people I loved being with. (Yeah, thanks for bursting that bubble!)”

“LOL Col,” Liz replied. “That is what is so wonderful about you, you always saw the good parts.” 

And Adrienne chimed in, “Always loved Col and those rose-colored glasses.”

Is that what makes it easy to see all the beauty?