The Eye of the Beholder

The other day a dear friend pointed out to me that the bridge tower I work in is basically the aesthetic equivalent of a concrete bunker, and the green and rusted girders make the bridge itself rather ugly.

That really took me by surprise (and even hurt my feelings for a hot second). I had never looked at it that way. To me, my bridge is gorgeous. I suppose this is how mothers of unattractive children feel. Yes, my baby may be butt-ugly to you, but he’s the most beautiful thing on earth to me.

I know every bolt and girder on this bridge intimately. When something goes wrong with it I can feel it in my bones. I climb amongst its greasy moving parts. I know every creak and groan it makes while moving. I sway with it when a heavy truck travels past. At night, the sparks from the passing trolleys cast a silvery glow upon my skin.

And yes, the room I spend the bulk of my time in isn’t particularly large, but its four walls don’t limit me. After gazing at this view for so long, the horizon is my boundary. My sense of place extends from the Cascade Mountains to the far shore of Lake Union. It is the deep blue canal and the dome of the sky. I have the most beautiful workplace in all of Seattle. Fortune 500 companies would pay millions for a view like this.

And I’ll never get over my amazement at how gracefully such a huge object can move. Every drawbridge is a miracle of engineering. Every drawbridge is a work of art.

While I am grateful for the insight that not everyone sees my bridge the way I do, I will always be proud to know that I am this bridge’s protector, its maintainer. I keep it safe.

In exchange it provides me with a way to support myself, literally and figuratively, and a place of blessed solitude where I can muse and write and dream. It’s one of my most intimate relationships. That means it will forever be a thing of beauty to me.

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8 thoughts on “The Eye of the Beholder

  1. Carole Lewus

    Oh, how I love when you write with such passion. I feel like I would also love this bridge. We think we cannot fall in love with inanimate objects, but we do. The polishing, tweaking and attention to the detail gives us an outlet that we cannot always share with our fellow humans. This is the passion that men have for their favorite car, or a child for the bike that will take them on limitless adventures. Keep writing, Dear Friend. Though I might not comment, I am always listening to your words.

  2. I am certain that this dear friend meant meant no disrespect in stating what was seemingly obvious to one set of eyes; and I suspect this friend didn’t mean to be insensitive either. Your potent and intimate relationship with this structure and the 360 view around it is a beautiful thing. It’s as if the bridgetower acts like an Oracle of Truth for you whenever I read your posts each morning. I too read every day. I am listening too like Carol. I don’t comment always but I am here every morning reading your posts like a friend of mine reads her New Testament with loving devotion to the study of them. She’s 75 and wonderful, discerning with grace, noticing the small things, and tuned in to the wisdom around her–like you. There is a Japanese term I learend of long ago and back when I lived in San Francisco. I loved the Japanese Tea House in Golden Gate Park. It was there that I first became acquainted with the concept of shibui or shibusa. And, know that your bridge and your relationship with it brings to mind this word:

    (From the Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibui) “The seven elements of shibusa are simplicity, implicity (noun), modesty, silence, naturalness, everydayness, and imperfection. The aristocratic simplicity of shibusa is the refined expression of the essence of elements in an aesthetic experience producing quietude. Spare elegance is evident in darkling serenity with a hint of sparkle. Implicity (noun) allows depth of feeling to be visible through a spare surface design thereby manifesting the invisible core that offers new meanings with each encounter. The person of shibusa modesty exalts excellence via a thoroughness of taking time to learn, watch, read, understand, develop, think, and merges into understatement and silence concerning oneself. Shibusa’s sanctuary of silence, non-dualism—the resolution of opposites, is intuition coupled with beauty and faith as foundations for phases of truth revealing the worship and reverence for life. Naturalness conveys spontaneity in growth, unforced. The healthy roughness of texture and irregular asymmetrical form maintain shibusa freedom wherein the center lies beyond all particular things in infinity. Everydayness raises ordinary things to a place of honor refined of all artificial and unnecessary properties thus imparting spiritual joy for today is more auspicious than tomorrow. Shibusa everydayness provides a framework, a tradition for an artist’s oeuvre to be a unit not a process. Hiroshi Mizuo argues that the best examples of shibusa are found in the crafts, which are ordinary objects made to be used; also, since they are mass-produced, they tend to be more spontaneous and healthy than many of the fine arts.”

    I also bet that your dear friend learns a lesson in reading this post that what seems obvious to one is farthest from the truth for another. Your insights on bridges and life, viewed from your bridge, (as one metaphor for life and living) are always exquisite to this dedicated reader–who is also honored to call you dear friend too. How you see what you see blows my mind wide open every time.

    1. Oh, I guarantee you that my friend meant no disrespect at all. Her view of my bridge is every bit as valid as my own, and I actually appreciated the lesson that everyone has a different perspective. I value her unique insights, and the fact that we are different in many ways (and identical in others) gives the friendship even more value.
      And no you didn’t just compare this blog to the New Testament! lol
      I like this Shibusa concept quite a bit. I may have to blog about that at some point.
      I am so grateful to everyone who reads my blog, especially the daily readers, as I feel that they are on this journey with me. That’s what gives this blog life. Thanks, Deb.

  3. Angiportus

    People are just wired up differently. I am familiar with the bridge that you run, and I think it looks fine. The towers also–kind of Art Deco. I loves me some angles and straight lines.
    And a lot of inanimates, not just for the polishing and tweaking that Carole describes but because they look great [to me,] and/or move gracefully like our bridges. I am more of a things and ideas person than a people person–some of us introverts are like that.
    What Deborah said about Shibusa is interesting, in that one doesn’t often hear of mass-produced objects being called spontaneous and healthy. Maybe it’s the design they are molded, etc., off of…

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