Living in the West is as beautiful as you imagine. You should know that purple mountain majesty meets you around almost every bend in the road. But far and away my most favorite piece of Colorado dirt is the open space just down the street from our house. Ute Vally Park has enough rock ledges and towering pines, hills and steep canyons to capture the glory of the West. And towering above its modest ridges is the glorious Pikes Peak.
My family and I have developed a ritual to get us there. On Summer nights after dinner, while the light still bids us play, we grab popsicles or ice cream cones and head down the street. It gives us a lot of things - great exercise, time together as a family, a relationship with nature and the earth. But that’s really not why I push to get us out the door. I’ve got a bit more subversive motivation. And this park is its propaganda.
I hope to teach my boys a lot about life. But near the top of my list, just below potty training and how to walk, is the ability to see and enjoy beauty. I know learning to say you’re sorry and developing a taste for vegetables are really important life lessons. But not more important.
I believe the ability to see and enjoy beauty is the foundation of all true spiritual belief, all romance, and the ability to see human dignity in every one. Its at the heart of all pleasure. Beauty is the truest pleasure.
So we walk Ute Valley Park looking for wildflowers or insects or any other beauty we can find. Beauty hunting, as Morgan Snyder puts it. On our walks, Simon our 5 year old is sure to exclaim, “Dad, some indian paintrush!” He’s fallen for the stuff. With its vibrant almost dripping orange towering bud, I don’t blame him. He always asks to pick one for his mother. Brandt our oldest, whom we call hawkeyes, always seems to spot the deer feeding along the stream bed before dusk. We stop and watch, the sunset painting their backdrop. Its piercing. Often, when we get home, Westley our youngest at 2 years old, will say, “Fun, daddy! Happy!” Its poetry.
I did learn along the way that there’s only one way to teach this virtue. I have to truly love the beauty myself. It’s the power of the “Wow.” To which my boys say, “Ah dad, you always do that when you see sunsets.” But then the other day, Simon said, “Dad, look at that sunset. It’s so beautiful!”“Yes it is!” I replied, as I pumped a hidden fist from the front seat of our minivan.
You might think seeing beauty is hard-wired. I sort of agree but if so almost all of us have lost that ability. and while I’m helping my boys not lose there's, it sure is good to get mine back.