One of the truly glorious things about beauty is that it doesn’t have to be pretty. Often, beauty is a feeling, a moment. Just a chance for every problem to vanish and for the beauty to overtake the world. Even if it’s just for a moment.
I see that today. I’m walking. Nowhere really. I haven’t anywhere to go, nor anywhere to be, except for where I am at this second. The day is cloudy. The air is damp and needles of rain spike against my cheeks.
The park is nearly deserted; no one wants to see a place of sunshine when it’s trying not to drown. There’s dirt smeared across the toe of my left boot from where I tripped and nearly lost my balance. I like parks in the rain. That’s when you see real people. People who aren’t influenced by a second of sunshine or a moment of warm weather. People who carry their own sun inside of them, causing the raindrops to vanish, and the cold wind to warm.
There’s a woman, running, with music in her ears and burning breath in her lungs. A father and a son, walking down the path, slowly and hand in hand. Their hoods are up and I can’t see their faces.
Suddenly, the son stops. He runs forward.
“Look,” I hear him say to his father.
“What is it?”
“There.” The boy is pointing to a flower petal, once yellow, now torn and smudged with raining mud. “It’s broken, Dad.”
The boy picks up the petal. He holds it in the palm of his hand. Gently. Softly. He protects it with his soft, unweathered fingers. He holds the little bit of lost life against his chest as though it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.
“Yes, it is,” his father says. “Put it back down, Alex. It’s time to go home.”
The boy looks at his father in silence. The man sighs.
“Put it down, Alex,” he says again. “It’s dirty.”
The boy doesn’t put up a fight. He walks towards a tree. Crouches amongst the hard ridges of gnarled roots. He puts the petal down and presses it into the mud with his fingers. Then I can see the flash of inspiration glow from his face inside his hood. He takes a leaf – a damp, muddy leaf. He puts it over the petal. Gently. Softly. He pushes on the edges of the leaf to make them stick. And then he stands back up and runs over to take his father’s hand once more.
They leave. Through the trees. Through the gates of the park. Away. To somewhere else warm and clean and bright.
I walk over to where the boy covered the petal. To where he tried to hide the petal from the rain. The leaf he pressed into the ground is brown and limp. It sucks itself into the mud, as though the rain is forcing it back into the ground. A sudden gust of wind blows the branches above me, and a crashing of water falls against the back of my head and down my neck. The force of the water pushes the leaf to one side and I can see the petal again. It is the kind of torn that changes its colour. It is more creases and tears than actual petal.
The petal is broken, sad, wet, protected.
And it’s beautiful.