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Moving my finger along the row of books, I look like a normal student, searching for that pivotal title that is about to transform my research paper. But I’m not. I’m undercover; in fact, I’m not even looking at the titles.

My eyes glance along the call numbers, searching for that inevitable culprit – the misfiled book. Sometimes I come across a lone holdout, sandwiched in between two books that aren’t used to being so cozy with it. Sometimes I come across a whole enclave of bandits, and guns blazing remove them from the shelf.

The end result is what’s beautiful to me. An ordered row, spines brought crisply to the edge of a shelf and the rebellion put down. All is in order.


These days, I mostly use pens, since my field of study means I do most writing on the computer and the writing that’s not digital rarely involves multiple erasures in order to come to the correct answer (excepting Hebrew). But I have not forgotten the joys of a sharpened pencil.

Surely you know that feeling. You’re writing away, and suddenly you start feeling that something’s amiss. The lead letters on the page aren’t crisp; the words are losing their definition and you realize, I need to sharpen this pencil. And let me tell you, in that moment, it is a need. Because if it doesn’t get sharpened, your happiness is going to disappear like so many dust particles going through an air purifier.

And so out comes the sharpener. It’s like a magic lamp, and inserting the pencil ensures that your wish for restored happiness is about to be fulfilled. When the pencil comes out it’s beautiful, precise, a point.

And then you write, and it’s blunt again. The good news is you get as many wishes as you want. You sharpen again and, instant presto, back to beauty.

Honestly, if you know me well, you’d expect the title of that post to be “Rain.” And it’s not that I don’t like the rain; in fact, I love it. But moving to Vancouver has made me a little more balanced. It’s made me not dislike the sunshine in contrast to the rain. I think I love them both now.

Here’s why the sunshine is so beautiful:

1. I can see the mountains out my window. Clouds, while they do great and beautiful and cool things often block my view of the mountains across the water. Granted, that is an extremely selfish reason to love sunshine but it’s true.

2. Everyone in Vancouver gets really happy when it’s sunny. It’s almost disturbing actually. On a day that I would just dismiss as a regular, nice, Southern California day, everyone is beaming and saying how much they just want to be outside.

I guess it’s not the sunshine itself but its effects that I find beautiful, but perhaps that will change when it rains everyday in November. We’ll see.

I look out my window and see a spider outside. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “a spider? What a horrible way to start a post about beautiful things.” Yeah, I know, it really is. And I’m not even writing about an amazing web he made (because he didn’t, it was just a single pathetic strand) or the incredible intricacy that allows him to have eight legs working at once because that doesn’t really amaze me right now.

But I do live on the 28th floor; so that window out of which I look is about 300 feet in the air and the spider is happily crawling along. He takes advantage of something he had no part in building, standing on the shoulders of giants, going about his life. There is something beautiful in realizing the spider has never talked to the architect of the building, and probably isn’t amazed by its size or the fact that hundreds of people live in it – he’s just living, on the shoulders of someone else. Like we all do. Beautiful.

I dig through my files, pulling out documents I want to save. I finger the pages, all written or touched by my hands. “Why keep files and files, when I can have a couple of folders on my laptop?” So my thoughts run as I sit in a corner, by the Epson Workforce 520 printer-scanner-fax. I see notes that I have forgotten taking. In the margins reside love notes which are now painfully irrelevant.

I notice that I doodle less than I used to and wonder if that’s a bad thing. Probably.

It’s a massive project, one that takes me down memory lane in a unique way. But the end product is beautiful – a window on my screen, containing the handwritten notes I spent so many hours taking; now in easy, searchable, pdf form.

Or maybe, I should have left them all in their files. Beauty is like that, I guess – hard to define.

A student looking for a place to live in an unknown city. The nervous typing of an email inquiring about a room. The semi-excited inquiring, “does it really include food?” The reconsidering upon hearing the slightly-higher-than-hoped-for rent. The sleeping of the “I’ll sleep on it” night. The deciding to take the opportunity. These things are nerve-wracking, novel and exciting.

But the beautiful thing is the reply: “The room is yours as long as you want it.” That, and the huge sigh of relief, realizing I have one known in a future of many unknowns.

Generally I do not find dirty water beautiful. You would probably have to pay me and then push me to get me swimming in any body of water that features pond scum (I think it’s up for debate as to whether or not scum is a beautiful word). However, there is one scenario in which I find dirty water one of the most satisfyingly beautiful sights ever – when I wash my hands.

There’s nothing like coming in from working on the car or in the garden, or even just coming home after a regular day and heading to that sink. When soap and grime meet, the magic happens. The water falls from my hands, having been transformed from clear purity to muddy satisfier of my love of cleanliness. It’s beautiful to watch that water drain away and know that filth, dirt, and scum are no longer on my hands.

If you didn’t catch it from my first post about freshly opened jars, you should know this about me: I like clean, fresh, well-arranged things (and apparently so do my fellow bloggers). Sure some might call it anal or, in a fit of extreme exaggeration, OCD, but I like to think of it simply as an overly-developed aesthetic eye.

A clean desk, a well-ordered personal space, is one of the most beautiful things known to man. Mind you, clean does not necessitate clear. A clear desk has little personality and certainly little function. A desk requires a variety of knick knacks of various shapes and sizes, the staple pile of “I-swear-I’m-reading-these” books, several writing utensils, and things to write on (laptop, paper, notepads, etc).

The key to not allowing this to become clutter (bet you didn’t expect to be getting desk advice in a Beautiful Everyday Things post but we – meaning I – like to keep things interesting) is lines. Straight lines. Everything needs to be lined up as straight as a _____ (I have literally attempted for two days to find a fitting simile but due to a lack of satisfaction with any of my attempts, will leave it up to you). Each item should lie perpendicular or parallel to everything else (if it’s a circular item, imagine it surrounded by a square and line the square up).

Ok, granted, that’s just my advice but if you follow it, I would look at your nice, clean, well-arranged desk and say to myself, “now that’s a beautiful everyday thing!”

The Colonist. 1951.

I open the cover and am greeted by a page filled with multi-colored messages. “Hey Grape, have a great summer.” “Boy Grape, you sure were rowdy but no kidding, you’re a swell guy.” I move forward.

The obvious place to look is in the class pictures and I find him there. Staring back at me is a grandfather younger than I am now. A senior in high school who, while obviously earning demerits, was also on the student court organizing and filing those same demerits. A young man who shares my love of basketball; or perhaps, I share his. This man, looking at me from 59 years ago, I can no longer look at in this life. There’s a strange quality to this moment. The realization that my grandpa had a whole life before I came along. The realization that I only knew one aspect of him.

Perhaps it would sadden some. For me, it makes turning every discolored, aging page an exciting and beautiful moment of discovery.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s around lunch time so you go pull out a jar of jelly from the fridge for a PB&J sandwich. The jar feels pretty full and as you go to open it you quickly realize the seal has not even been broken. You exert a little more effort and with a small pop the lid comes off in your hands. You look down and see it – the smooth surface of strawberry jelly. This is more than just a beautiful sight, it’s a beautiful moment. It is like the calm before the storm, a moment of peace before your knife creates chaos within the glass walls you hold in your hand. You wonder how it gets so smooth. Is it some massive, impressive machine spinning hundreds of jars at a time to create such a flat surface? Or is it something more magical? Perhaps a group of miniature elves riding a jelly zamboni to create such wondrous smoothness? The hunger pangs remind you that you aren’t here to muse, but to eat. So, with one last glimpse, you dig the knife in, forever changing the internal homeostasis of that jar. Perhaps the fleetingness just makes it more beautiful.

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