Making a moment to take in the beauty of everyday
by Ari Weinzweig
By my count, this is now week 7 of the first pandemic I’ve ever been through. I can’t say what it’s like for others, but I do know that, speaking at least for myself and for friends and coworkers around the ZCoB, even under the best of circumstances, these are tough times. Clearly, those who have fallen sick and the health care workers who are working so hard to help them, are in the hardest, highest pressure, spots. But even if you’re a step or two removed from the “front lines,” this remains a really stressful period. The uncertainty of it all; the separation from family, friends, and colleagues; the disruption of regular routines; the cancellation of weddings and commencements, the economic challenges. I think for most everyone, the feeling of dislocation and the grieving of the way things “were” will go on for a long while. No matter how grounded, and no matter how protected one is, this is a challenging time.
The other evening, I started to think that the stress that goes with dealing with the pandemic is actually a bit like Coronavirus—you can’t see it, most of us are quietly carrying it around, and it’s very contagious. It can weigh on any of us in quiet ways, even when our moods seem good on the surface. It can take a long time to incubate, and when you don’t expect it, it can knock you down pretty hard.
The art of coping.
The good news is that while we don’t have a medical cure for the virus, we do have tools to help us with the understandable anxiety. Last week I shared a bit about how journaling each morning helps me manage through my days. The response to that post was so positive that I thought maybe I’d keep the theme going this week by reminding myself, as well as everyone else, that even in these extremely tragic and trying times, beauty still abounds. To take a minute here and a minute there to just pause, and take in the positive things that still, even under all the pressure of the pandemic-induced uncertainty, still surround us. To be clear, I know that doing this doesn’t make the bad things go away. But remembering to take note of the loveliness that surrounds us even when we’re struggling, can successfully serve as (at least part of) an emotional lifeline.
This idea of approaching our lives as artists, noticing the nuances, making poetry out of our lives, is all the subject of the pamphlet I put out last year, entitled “The Art of Business.” But don’t let the title throw you off—it’s really about the art of . . . everything. It shares what I’ve learned over the years about trying to bring a creative artistic approach to pretty much everything (even the most mundane of them) I do. About how I’ve tried to regularly appreciate the little things, the warmth of someone’s smile, the color of the crust on Bakehouse bread, to pay close attention to each note of a song I love, the complex flavors of each piece of food I eat, the coffee I sip. To appreciate the many great people I get to be around—Tammie, everyone in our organization, friends, vendors, just people on the street who smile and wave when I’m out running even when I don’t know them.
Every little bit adds up. To make the mental space to notice the small acts of kindness. The other day I was out running when I saw a man stop his car by the side of the road. He walked to the other side, picked up a tiny turtle he’d spotted, lifted it up and put it back into the woods away from the road. As my friend, the artist Patrick-Earl Barnes says, art isn’t just what you hang on your walls or what you listen to, “Art,” he says, “is how you think!”
The art in beauty.
I was reminded of all this the other evening. It’d been a long day. Nothing overly dramatic or drastic. Just a lot of zoom meetings, worrying about health and safety, keeping up with Health Department directives, and trying to figure out Federal loan requirements . . . you know, kind of a typical day in business during a pandemic. After I went for a long run to clear my mind, I decided to drive out to Tamchop Farms (behind Cornman Farms) in Dexter to say hi to Tammie and see how things were going there. And there, all there really was, was beauty. Tammie’s amazing work to get her heirloom seeds going. The seed companies she’d carefully selected. The tiny sprouts sticking out of the dirt hand-packed into seed trays. The sun was going down, the dogs were moving about, the pepper and tomato plants were growing. The hoop house was glowing as the sun set behind it. No Zoom, no SBA loan logistics . . . just a few thousand tiny seedlings that are soon to be fruit-bearing plants, none of which gave a whit about economic collapse or human health or any of my worries.
The beauty that evening, it just so happened, was exceptional. It had been gray and raining all day and was supposed to stay that way. But while I was out there with Tammie the clouds started to shift and the sun started to come back out a bit. By the time the sun hit the horizon, it was beautiful. You can see it in the photo above—Pepper (one of our four pups) just looking calmly and quietly out towards the setting sun (but actually, I’d guess, listening carefully for one of the sandpipers he loves to chase).
To be honest, that 20-minute “beauty break” turned my whole day around. It reminded me again, of what I already know enough to know—that the beauty, the art, is always there to be seen. And even under duress, it still helps to appreciate the loveliness of the little things. They don’t fix the bigger problems. But they do make the odds of getting through them higher, and the days just a bit happier. A lot, I’ve realized, is just what we focus on. I love this quote from British writer Michael Korda—it kind of puts it in all in perspective for me: “The pleasure lies not in the cookies,” Korda says, “but in the pattern the crumbs make when the cookies crumble.” I love that. And I love you all! Let’s get through this. Together!! Thank you all for making the community and the world a more beautiful place, even when we’re faced with some tough stuff!