On Beauty

On Beauty


Cancer has slowed me down. And slowness has opened my eyes and sat me down.  Sometimes there has been little beauty in this forced slowing of both body and mind–the crumbling finger nails, the missing eyebrows–but sometimes, the slowing has made space to see so much. And I want more of it, whether it’s the words on a card from a friend, the intricate embroidery on a pillow case, a play that expands your view, the translucence of citrus peel being candied, or the sunlight in the cemetery on my regular (slow) walks.

All of a sudden I am also struggling with beauty and how I perceive myself in this world. Losing the hair on my head did not phase me but losing my eyebrows in these last few weeks has rocked me. I feel like I actually look sick just as I’ve finished chemo and started to feel more like myself again. This tension is hard and I think, “what of it?, what does it matter?” but in this very moment it seems to matter. So I turn to other beauty; the poems below, the feeling of sunlight on my face right this minute, to the abundance of love in this world, despite all the despair and darkness and turmoil and I am alright.

Sleeping in the Forest
By Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Boy and Egg
Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens. He too could make
a bed in hay. Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

16 thoughts on “On Beauty”

  • Carol Boutard says:

    Dear Katherine,

    How very like you to find the poetry in your words and those of others to express your transformations. You help me with my own need for transformation, daily. I love you so much, my dear.

  • Katherine,
    Thinking of you often as you make this journey. I am so grateful for the beauty of your writing and ability to share.

  • Dirk Dellinger says:

    Thank you for sharing your beauty, with your words and those of others. You have always been a beacon of beauty and strength to me and I know to others as well. I love you and your family more than you could know.
    Thank you for all you do to make this world a better place.
    Love and Light,

  • Katherine, so grateful for the connection to you and your thoughtfulness — however distant. Thank you for bringing me to poetry, as I seldom go there myself. I am thinking of you again, in Berlin, and sending many good thoughts, holiday greetings, and healing wishes for the new year.
    Alles, alles Liebe,

  • Sending love through my tears. Life tries to play a trick on you and you fool it by playing one right back with this lovely post and lovely thoughts.

  • I emember you happy & healthy in the kitchen. I loved you then. I have had aheart incident a brush with how close to vulnerability we are You will recover. As many of my friends have. It makes me sad. I always remember your egg nog at this time of the year. I have never forgotten it. I hope you make some for the holidays it’s the bestest. Carol

  • Barbara Grover says:

    Take heart dear Katherine, you’ll find peace with the struggle to feel beautiful. When that happens, you’ll possess an unwavering knowledge that you are nothing but beautiful. That feeling may be elusive for a while more but, eventually your knowing will be rock solid, and it will give you moment of profound gratitude. I can tell you this, it’s not your beauty that has wavered, only your ability to see your beauty that has shifted; understandably so. Besides, if you ask me, you look gorgeous!

    Just as I now know I’m NEVER alone, I also know that I am forever beautiful. I’m so confident that you will know this too (to your core) that rather than worry about you, or feel sad, I look forward to celebrating that steadfast moment of knowledge with you.

    I have other thoughts I’d love to share on this topic: such as how I used the same moment in my healing, when that doubt of beauty dominated, as an opportunity to ask myself what I would change. With no hair, a new body shape, and such, I got to decide if I wanted to recreate my image. Should I be more feminine? Should I be more tomboyish? Do I go back to who I was or do I pause and make sure that my outward appearance has integrity with what’s inside. I found that aspect of the process one of the most enlightening – one of the hardest as it made me think hard about who I really am. But, a worthwhile bit of discomfort that’s lead to my forever beautiful attitude.

    Dang, this cancer thing is a journey, isn’t it?..and have I mentioned how I like to travel. 😉
    Love to you a million times!

  • Renee niquette says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! You are an inspiration to so
    many. You will emerge from your cocoon more beautiful than ever!!!
    Sending you love and hugs you are amazing. Thank you so much for
    sharing from your heart. Renée

  • Kristin Calhoun says:

    Thanks for your unvarnished and poetic honesty. Beauty came certainly have its unexpected and challenging ways. Sending all good thoughts.

  • Thank you for making your journey so public, it is always amazing to discover and appreciate the magic and beauty of our physical world! I do not know you personally but feel as if I do and am very touched by your beautiful and thoughtful words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>