Today’s Word from Laura Canby

“Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

I don’t exactly remember when I first read Elsie Robinson’s poem, Beauty as a Shield, though I suspect it was in my high school English class. The opening line has stayed with me throughout my life: “I will hold beauty as a shield against despair.”  (The whole poem is printed below and is worthy of a read-through.)

When I need a break from work, or feel stressed by the complexities of life, I grab my camera (though today it is more apt to be my cell phone), and head outdoors for a few minutes.

No matter the season or weather, there is something always to be found in nature that offers a visual respite from the day’s worries. Often it is in looking at flowers and foliage in new ways. sometimes sunlight highlights an aspect of a petal or leaf I had not noticed before.

Looking deeply, seeing with intent, and exploring patterns opens up new worlds that are all around me, but which I often pass by when consumed with everyday cares and deadlines.

These new ways of seeing help me to fill up my own emotional/ spiritual reservoir, though I am also happy to share them. (A video of images is attached.)

I very much appreciate it when friends, primarily on Facebook, share their own creative photos.

There are many within our own congregation who are highly talented at capturing insights into the natural world. I think of Holly Husom Davison, Judy Anderson Smith, Ron Norman, Don Miller, Noel Nic’Fergusson, Kathy McLaughlin McCabe, Tom Nielsen, and Teri Smith Shallock to name a few. (Sorry if I’ve left anyone out.)

In the wider South Whidbey community, I love looking at the images that Judy Feldman of the Organic Farm School posts, and the nearly nightly photo of the bluff at Mutiny Bay that Susie Richards shares.

As a person who deals primarily with words, I appreciate being able to take a moment and immerse my mind in the images which these people share, and who, in effect, share beauty as a shield against despair.

Take your camera or cell phone out for just a few minutes and see what you can capture and then upload your best image to this post on Facebook at . Let’s see how many shields of beauty we can share.


Beauty as a Shield
by Elsie Robinson

I will hold beauty as a shield against despair.
When my heart faints I will remember sights like these:
Bronze cypresses that framed a sapphire sea,
A desert mesa wrapped in sunset flame,
An airplane that raced the Overland
Above a trail still marked with whitening bones;
A path through a dim forest, hushed and sweet,
Lit by one amber beam that fell aslant;
Foam, silver-laced, along a curving wave;
Sprawled golden hills, with shadows like spilled wine;
Tall office buildings rearing through the night
Sheer walls of alabaster pierced with gold—
And snowflakes falling on a lonely pine.

I will hold beauty as a shield against despair.
When my heart faints I will remember sights like these:
The dawning wonder in a baby’s face,
The kindness in a weary wanton’s smile,
The gallant challenge of a cripple’s grin,
Seeing forever bodies that are straight;
The fighting courage in a mother’s eyes
When she waits, braced, to meet birth’s gripping pains;
The shy adoring of a boy’s first love,
The eager beauty of his first crusade
Against some wrong which he alone can right—
The tolerance that sometimes comes with age.

When my heart faints I will remember sights like these,
Holding their beauty as a shield against despair:
For if I can see glory such as this
With my dim eyes, my undeveloped brain,
And if from other darkened, selfish lives
Such flashes of brave loveliness can come,
Then surely there is something more than this
Sad maze of pain, bewilderment and fear—
And if there’s something, I can still hope on.