because

Because we needed a distraction, a friend suggested that we exchange short written reflections on beauty, titled "Because Beauty". She wrote 2 and I wrote 2 too. Then COVID happened and we stopped. Other things took over to distract.

Because it started to rain just as I was about to go for my post-dinner walk, I sat down before my laptop and saw this folder "Because Beauty". So let me share the 2 short pieces I wrote from that time instead -

BECAUSE BEAUTY Dec 2019

I cut my hair a month ago, and realised this meant you can see the scar from the surgery in Oct18. A couple of surgeons / doctors who have seen the large bur faint scar have praised the skill of my neurosurgeon - in a professional sense they may have described his handiwork as beautiful! 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was beautiful, and he separated the light from the darkness. 
 
And on the second day, God made the land and sea. He saw that it, too, was beautiful.
 
On the third day, trees, plants, grasses – yes, beautiful.
 
On the fourth day, the sun and moon and stars – the magic that lights up our skies, oh my, look, the surfeit of beauty.
 
On the fifth day, God made the animals, all creatures great and small and simply adorable. The shapes of their bodies, the colours of their feathers, their gallop and their flight, and the way they danced for each other were beautiful. It was, God saw. It was a productive day.
 
Then God made man and woman. He made them in his own image. The will to create, the eye for beauty, and the desire to love and be loved – surely this was the semblance of his glory reflected back to him. His glory was not in the overhanging belly; not in the awkward private parts that look like leftovers from the fifth day; not in the hair that would grow and grow in areas it should not be in and stop growing in areas we want it most; not in the heart that would give up or the hunger that would not. 

BECAUSE BEAUTY Jan 2020

A borrowed underwater scenery
  
A garden can be seen as man's attempt to control nature and to bring it into the realm of artifice, to mould it according to his aesthetic will. 

Both the Chinese and Japanese have a theory of “borrowed scenery” in garden design.  I understand “borrowed scenery” as, first, accepting the limits of that will. However magnificent your garden design is when viewed from your favourite chair, the garden is but a defined plot before you house. It inherits the neighbour's straying branch, the buildings behind it, the mountains (if you are lucky) in the distance, the skies above, the rocks and earth it roots from...  

Although you cannot shape everything according to your will, “borrowed scenery” next suggests that you can shape the final picture by finding the perspective that best frames your view of your garden.  It is a clever theory. At the heart of it: don't just make do, make best what you got. Borrow. Steal. 

Like any HDB dweller, we too must beg-borrow-steal whatever strip of corridor space and however many minutes of sunlight to nurture our potted plants. And even if you have pots and pots of potted plants, I would hesitate to call it a garden. 

This year, besides potted plants, I started buying cut flowers. Nothing fancy. They are usually two or three stalks of chrysanthemums or whatever is available at the market stall.  The flowers in their bottle are surrounded on the dining table by a botanical collection mostly left behind by James: an arrangement of dried leaves and branches, a large bell jar that acts as a biodome for a fiddly jungle begonia, a pot of variegated singonia a friend had propagated, and a bromeliad with the seductive name Pink Lady. Behind the dining table sits a pot of sculptural giant sansevieria and a ficus elastica that, despite the small pot it sits in, just grows and grows. 

On weekends, I will have breakfast at that table. The gentle morning sun would always fall on the flowers. In this light the edges of the petals appear in sharp relief, their white, lilac or yellow in contrast against the various shades of browns and greens. But is it indeed the light or is it my fickle eye which finds and favors the flowers in this composition? The flowers last a week or two before they also turn a shade of brown. I have been thinking that the flowers are a borrowed beauty.  


These lotus buds lasted all of 2 days before turning black
 

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