Earlier this week I was walking through the woods near my house with my husband and daughter. There isn’t much left of the woods really because development after WWII cut down the trees and re-purposed the farms. Where there was once nature, there is now housing.
Still, there are little patches of undeveloped land to enjoy. Not much, but some.
As we were walking back along the tree flanked path that leads to the back of a pub and the cricket field, a lady, coming the opposite way, stopped my daughter to ask if the path lead to a road.
She was dressed vibrantly. Her long silver-white hair flowed out from under her Icelandic style hat. She wore Wellie boots, a bright pink jacket, a rainbow scarf and jeans.
I went over to help Tabby, my daughter, out because she seemed to have forgotten that the path we walked hundreds of times did, in deed, lead to a road.
“If you follow this path, you’ll come to a road.”
“I’m walking around here to see if I can see what the artist Martin Snape saw,” she said. “He lived in Victorian times, they were hard times, you know. I wanted to see if any of the beauty he captured in his paintings still existed today.”
“I won’t walk far. I wish I’d brought my dog along, but she’s quite mad,” she laughed.
Then the laughter dropped and she asked: “Do you look for the beauty?”
It was out of the blue. A question from a slightly bizarre stranger that penetrated my soul.
“Yes. Yes, I do,” I replied and she nodded in approval.
“So do I. All of the time. Are you an artist?”
“No, not really. I’m more of a wannabe artist.”
She began to fumble in her jacket pocket. “Yes, me too. I’m a wannabe artist and that’s why I take photos: to capture the beauty.”
She held out her camera to show me.
“That’s what I do too.”
She laughed again, said goodbye and walked away on the path leading to the road. I went the other way but this lady never left my mind.
It was a chance encounter with a stranger, out on a chilly autumn morning to look for beauty.
I do look for beauty but sometimes I forget. I see the housing and the busy roads and the industrial estates and the shops and the destruction humans cause.
I needed to meet this lady.
I needed the reminder to look for the beautiful.
Is this a message you needed to hear too?