Ordinary Beauty #1
Noticing beauty is a habit, and it’s also not really optional if we want to live a sacramental life. In this episode, Seth and Tsh share specific examples of beauty they’re currently witnessing, and you’re invited to nod along and notice your own as well.
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Seth: Welcome to A Drink With a Friend, I’m Seth Haines.
Tsh: And I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
Seth: Tsh, how are you? It’s been a week. It’s been a long week.
Tsh: It has been a very long week and I’m doing okay. It’s really gross here weather-wise and I’ve done nothing but kid stuff I feel like but otherwise, it’s summer. How about you guys?
Seth: I feel like it’s the same way. This kind of heat and humidity and general awfulness in the southern weather makes just really long days, you know what I mean? Just brutal.
Tsh: Yeah. And for me, I’ve had to rearrange my schedule because I like doing lots of outside throughout the day like stop and take a walk. I know have to strategize not going outside after 10:00 am and then after 7:00 pm. Although, I will say…p.s. yes to southern heat but I am fully aware of all the Pacific Northwest crazy going on. Listeners right now that are dying of heat. Do you know about this, Seth?
Seth: Yes, it’s insane.
Tsh: It’s insane. I really feel for them because having lived up there for when we did, they usually don’t have A/C. It’s rare to find A/C. So when it’s 112 outside, it feels differently than for us down here who can at least hunker down in the house.
Seth: Yeah, it feels like 1000 degrees. When it is 1000 degrees outside whether you are in the Pacific Northwest or in Austin or in Arkansas, you need to have a good watering hole. A good place to sit down, kick your feet up and get a cold drink. As we say in the South, a “cole” drink, get yourself a “cole” drink. What kind of “cole” drink you drinking today?
Tsh: I am drinking iced tea because it is the south but I’m making it fancy by it being hibiscus iced tea. I wanted something without caffeine because I’m working on that post-noon caffeine and it’s good. Just classic, southern summer drink. That’s all. Nothing more to it other than the hibiscus-ness of it, there you go. How about you?
Seth: I am very excited about this. I got really bored with drinking the same old things on this show so I went to the Whole Foods, again, not sponsored by Whole Foods but if you’re listening, we’re open.
Tsh: We are.
Seth: I grabbed GT’s Alive Ancient Mushroom Elixir, have you ever heard of this?
Tsh: No, but I’ve walked by and wondered what the story was about it.
Seth: It is evidently a type of kombucha, it says it has a fruiting body and then it explains, what is a fruiting body? A fruiting body is the whole mushroom, fully formed cap, and stem. I don’t have any idea what that even means. Most products only use the mycelium, again, I don’t know what that means, which is the root of the mushroom. However, using the fruiting body is the best way to get more of its nutritional benefits. It has three types of mushroom in it and evidently, it has the fruiting body in it. That’s supposed to be super important. It has 200% of my daily vitamin C, if you can believe that, and also 31% of my daily carbs so that’s kind of problematic. But listen, this is the root beer flavor and it’s actually pretty good.
Tsh: That was going to be my follow-up question that I’m sure everyone is wanting to know. Okay, but is this good at all?
Seth: At all, yes. At all it is. Now, is it root beer great? No, but of course it has way less sugar. It actually only has 16 carbs in it. It’s not a lot it has a ton of added sugar like a root beer would but it’s pretty good. I actually like it. I would recommend it and drink it again and if you were to go to the Whole Foods or your Whole Foods type of store is and grab it, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tsh: Is it fizzy?
Seth: Very fizzy.
Tsh: Okay. So it’s like a sparkling kombucha likeness.
Seth: It literally tastes like root beer-ish kombucha and I assume that there are mushrooms in it because it says so but it does not taste mushroom-y.
Tsh: That’s cool. Mushroom things have become really popular in the hippie world I’ve noticed just because I have one toe in that world and I’ve yet to dive in but I see it everywhere.
Seth: We do a lot of mushrooms in the Haines house. We have mushroom powders, one of our children is wicking into mushrooms of the non-illegal variety, I should be very clear about that. Generally, I feel better when I eat/drink mushrooms but then the other side of that is it could be a complete placebo, I have no idea.
Tsh: Isn’t that true about all these things? I tend to think these are sometimes placebos until I have a true junk food. I haven’t had a soda in decades but I have had a sip of a soda and I feel ick. To me, that means, okay, the non-soda things are at least nutritionally neutral which is a lot, that’s what we can ask for these days.
Seth: To me, full-bodied sodas, meaning full-sugared sodas, have the taste of regret.
Tsh: Yeah, 100%. No doubt.
Seth: That’s all I have to say about that.
Tsh: Especially at forty-three for me. I just can’t do it anymore.
Seth: I think pretty soon we’re going to have call this show Forty-three and Me because I think we blame things on middle age every week. That’s okay.
Tsh: You know what? I’m a fan. My birthday is late summer, yours is early fall, right?
Seth: October, yeah.
Tsh: We should do something in the middle where we talk about it and just get all the everything out of our system and then move on and not bring it up again.
Seth: That would be awesome. Can we be the two grumpy old muppets on the Muppet Show?
Tsh: [laugh] I thought of that, too. We could. That comparison is not, not been made at our home.
Seth: Tsh, this week we have been thinking about what’s been on our minds, what’s motivated us, what’s moved us, what’s sparked our imaginations. I want to share a story with you.
Seth: As you know, I was in this little place called Marfa, Texas and as you know, because I shared on this podcast, there is a photographer who takes photos of Marfa and then has these little pithy quips like, Marfa, it’s very mediocre here. Things like this. Which is really funny because Marfa is as I said last week, quasi-mediocre. However, if you go south and you go down into Big Ben National Park, it’s this amazing National Park, honestly, it’s an amazing National Park that I’d never heard of outside of the Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or it may have been Parts Unknown. But his episode on West Texas, I did see it in that episode but I didn’t connect that it was Big Ben National Park. We went down into the National Park. As we got out we were getting close to sunset and the sun was beginning to peek down behind the mountains. The mountains in Big Bend National Park are massive, just on a scale that I had no idea.
Tsh: People are surprised by it.
Seth: It was unbelievable. I felt like I was in Colorado except for I was in south Texas. It was blazingly hot. I was standing at the foot of one of these mountains and I was looking up at this one that was called, I think it’s called Mule Ears. I was looking at this mountain and was just so taken back by the beauty. It was just the mountains, it was the mountains, it was the sunset, it was the cloud formations in the sky. The cactuses were blooming, which I don’t know if I’ve ever seen cactus blooms in real life until this trip.
Tsh: Really, okay.
Seth: It was all these little tiny things that added up to this one majestic and beautiful moment. In that moment, I described it to a friend as feeling intensely small. The feeling you get when you’re looking out at the ocean except smaller. I have no idea why the vastness of these mountains somehow felt more vast than the ocean, which appears to be endless, but it did. I just felt really small. It was like this moment of beauty that was profoundly transformative in the moment and really opened my eyes to something that was much, much, much bigger than myself. You and I started talking about that a little bit and started exploring or thinking that it might be fun to talk about the ways in which everyday beauty draws us through to something transcendent or teaches us something or moves us and that’s a big example. We all have that moment every now and then. There are tons of little examples, too, of just how beauty in the everyday moves us or teaches us something. That’s what we’re going to talk about today and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tsh: It’s really the main topic of this whole show, right? We deep dive into sub-topics such as writing or taking care of our bodies or loving where you live. These kinds of things as forms of beauty but really the overarching question we ask on this podcast is what does it mean to live noticing the beauty, I think. It is a practice that we both have learned that we can’t live without so that’s what we like to unpack. I love the idea not only of deep diving on this a little bit but doing that regularly. Every couple months on this show, let’s pause and remind ourselves and therefore remind our listeners because I bet you they’re in the same boat as us, what it means to notice beauty in your everyday life. For the most part, we all, you’re right, we all have those moments where we are somewhere astounding and we have to stop and feel our smallness but I think it behooves us to do that when we’re also stuck in traffic and we’re also loading the dishwasher because that’s the reality of most of our days, right? Most of us cannot spend our time wandering mountains as much we would like to, we’re responsible adults. I think it’s a great topic for us to explore with our listeners. The other reason I really love that you brought this up is because I literally wrote something about this on Monday of this week as the podcast goes out. I wrote a piece, I actually wrote it late last week, out of a compulsion to write it down. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this, Seth, whenever as a writer, there are times when I can’t find my pen and paper or digital pen and paper fast enough and there are times when I am avoiding it like the plague like it’s my job to avoid it because for whatever reason. I started this piece by asking the question, why are there times when I avoid and why are there times when I can’t stop myself from doing it? As I unpacked, writing for myself, I realized, oh, I think the difference is when I choose to notice beauty or not and really by way of doing so acknowledging through gratitude. That’s what beauty should lead us to, is being grateful for it. To me, that was the difference between literally having a mindset that wanted to be functioning adult that contributed to society and not by acknowledging the good things that are beautiful in my life. I think it’s really essential for all of us to do this regularly.
Seth: I agree with you. What’s one place in your life right now where you are finding beauty in the everyday?
Tsh: Because, like I said in this essay I wrote, noticing the beauty has to be a habit for me because I am an Eeyore by nature, I’m kind of melancholy. If I’m not careful I will complain instead of praise. It’s a habit building, I truly have to do this. I was working on this, this morning. Okay, I have a headache, it is hot, how we started this chat, what’s good right now? I looked over and my eleven-year-old has a veritable mess in the living room of cardboard. Cardboard everywhere. The hot glue gun is on, scissors, knives, the whole bit. My initial response was oh my gosh, what a mess. I’m going to have to remind him ten times to clean that up. I paused and I noticed what’s the thing behind the thing and it’s he is making some phenomenal art. He is into this kick for a year now of creating his own personal armory. He’s got through wood scraps from Kyle all the way to cardboard. All sorts of weapons and all sorts of armor. He was making different helmets out of cardboard and we’re not just talking box on head with eye holes, they are authentically…he made an ancient Greek one and then he made a medieval French one, and now he’s working on some Japanese one or whatever, completely on his own volition because he has plenty of cardboard.
Tsh: The thing that I’ve decided because I tweeted about this as well is, I love it when I witness other people doing their thing well. I don’t know if you know what I mean by that?
Tsh: I’m sure you know what I mean by that. To me, it is a thing of beauty to just watch other people get lost in the thing they love. My son making things out of cardboard. Kyle, in particular, I think for him, the first one that comes to my mind recently is when he was helping people during our Texas freeze. He was just completely in his element. He loved it. He thought it was so fun to go to our neighbor’s houses and help them unfreeze their pipes. That to me is a work of art to have that posture of adventure. Of course, I can think broader like Wendell Berry’s poetry and farming and the way he lives in the land. There’s big and small is my point. That’s my first one. The joy of witnessing other people do their thing well.
Seth: That’s good. That segues good into the first place of beauty that I’ve been able to see in everyday life. For me, it’s someone doing something well but it’s also the direct result and it’s the output of the garden in my back yard. Amber has done such a good job this year. She’s always done a good job with gardening. She loves gardening but this year she really paid attention to mixing flowers in with the actual garden that bring a lot of beauty to the garden space. The result has been absolutely astounding. It almost looks like an English garden. The way it’s set up is really well done. She thought through colors, she thought through height of plants, she thought through what kind of herbs we want to use in the kitchen and what are the best varieties to get beautiful flowers like lavender or striated lemon or thyme or things like that. She’s just really done an amazing job. She’s done it well. But it’s really just walking into the backyard and seeing how beautiful it is. The last three mornings I’ve sat out there and had my coffee just because it’s so pretty and so beautiful. It’s a good way to start the day. It brings in lots of birds. It brought in some deer last week which was a little point of contention. Also brought in a raccoon that may or may not have eaten a tomato. It’s become a little garden of Eden in our backyard and it’s been really amazing to watch it unfold. It is every day, she puts in a little bit of effort to it and the results has been astounding.
Tsh: I love watching Amber through the screen do it so I can only imagine in person the delight of sitting there. I think that’s one of the reasons I want to talk with her soon on the show is because I want to unpack with her what it means to garden from a fellow wannabe homesteader with a brood of kids and chickens that I think she has really done well, this living in the land business that I’ve always been so intrigued by. She seems to really have tapped into that, maybe starting the pandemic? I don’t know. Or maybe she’s just talking about it more. It’s been fun to watch. It’s cool.
Seth: There’s a local podcaster and his name is Clay Newcomb. He runs a podcast called Bear Grease which is on the meat-eater channel. His podcast and our podcast probably don’t have a huge overlap in listeners, although maybe a little bit. He ended up on the Joe Rogan podcast actually this last week in an interview which is really funny because you couldn’t two more different people talking to one another. Rogan was asking him about living close to the land, actually about hunting. Clay spun it to this isn’t actually about hunting this actually about living close to the land. When you make a decision to be a hunter, you’re actually identifying with being dependent on and close to the land and when you decide to be close to the land it changes all the decisions you make. It changes how far away you go on vacation. It changes how you raise your kids. It changes how you interact with your wife. He even used the phrase, it changes the way I view the sanctity of my marriage. He used that phrase on a Joe Rogan podcast. It was pretty unbelievable. What I thought was really amazing about that and it’s speaking about beauty in the everyday, what Clay was saying is you approach every day differently, mindfully, thinking about the real-world implications that the land has on your life. I’ve watched Amber do that for the last fifteen years in different ways, in different places, in different houses. She really does focus on how does the land affect my life and if it affects my life how can I make it more beautiful. How can I partner with it to make it more beautiful and I think that’s really like a practice of everyday beauty.
Tsh: It’s a gift. That’s cool. I love that.
Seth: Where’s the next place where you find everyday beauty?
Tsh: I’m going to just segue into what you’ve said a little bit with living into the land. I posted about this on Instagram, this idea of something I’ve really grown to appreciate about small-town life is that life just feels the right size here. That’s what I thought of whenever you said that about whenever we choose to live with the land and with the seasons and to even feed yourself from it is that what we’re doing is shrinking our life to the right size, I think.
Tsh: This example is completely different than hunting. You probably could not get more different. Last weekend and the weekend before our small town and in particular, the coffee shop behind the house across the street from us. I don’t know if that makes sense? If I’m looking this way, straight west across the street from that house, behind it is a coffee shop with a backyard. In that backyard, a new community theater group performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Seth: Oh, wow.
Tsh: The ticket was buy a cup of coffee at this coffee shop and we’re going to perform for you. It was the full play. Hours-long, completely memorized, which I’m always impressed by with Shakespeare. It was a delight. We all sat around on the picnic tables. There was bug spray on the tables for everybody. There was a taco truck. It was phenomenal. You could tell the costumes were piecemeal, they were definitely not like what your kids would do for a living room show but they were a few steps beyond that because this is just community volunteer theater. It was so well done and it was so fun to sit there with our neighbors and eat tacos and watch Shakespeare two hundred steps from our front porch.
Tsh: It was remarkable. It almost felt otherworldly. It felt like a wink from God because I’ve been craving, the phrase I’ve been using to Kyle lately is I’ve just been craving being whisked and wooed and I haven’t been getting that. What I mean by that is whisked away, I think travel but in a more whimsical way. And wooed meaning just by life. Everything has just been feeling kind of ordinary and I miss that feeling of serendipitously coming across some beauty and to me this was a bit of God’s saying, alright, how about I just flop it down in almost your backyard, a Shakespearean play performed by your neighbors? For me, it was both the largeness of an epic play by the epic-ist of playwrights and in the smallness of done by my neighbors for the price of a cup of coffee piecemealed in the corner of a backyard. It was a delight.
Seth: That’s amazing. I’m very, very jealous of you right now.
Tsh: It was really cool. We chatted for a while with the leader afterward, they are going to do it again next summer. They are going to do some stuff this fall. They’re going to do a murder mystery over the holidays. It was like, okay, I’m glad I live here because this is the time of year when we question our sanity about living in Central Texas and it gave me a pinch of stay put, it’s okay, you can live here. It was great.
Seth: Who knew that Central Texas has so much art? I guess everyone who lives in Central Texas?
Tsh: I was going to say, this is a very art-filled part of Texas. Anywhere from Austin in a hundred-mile radius out of that is very artsy. That part doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is the neighborliness of it all. This was not done on a stage. This was done in a coffee shop's backyard. It was great.
Seth: I think the beauty of community is a place where we both find everyday beauty and it’s certainly been true in my life and it’s certainly been true in my life recently. Amber and a group of women in Goshen, Arkansas…this is all about Amber. Maybe we really should have her on the show? Anyway, they have pulled together what is called the Goshen Farmer’s Market. Conventional wisdom says they should have taken a year to plan it, taken their time, and launched it in 2022 but I think again because we’ve just been so locked up, we’ve been so tired and stir crazy when they had the idea to do it, they just said let’s launch this in six weeks or whatever, eight weeks. Which is bonkers, but they did.
Seth: It has been incredible to watch. They’ve been in contact with local vendors, the vendors have come together. They’ve pulled together an amazing array of people. People who grow vegetables and berry farms and painters and artisans who make wood carved stuff. There’s someone who makes handmade pens, jellies, and jams. When you stand in the middle of this little quad area and you look at all the tents, it’s this array of amazing beautiful colors. It’s so fun. I actually get to take the photographs for it. It’s so fun to photograph because of the various colors and because of the people and the dogs. This last week there was another little bit of beauty that showed up. I was talking with a group there, they are called Northsong. Every week they have a community tent and this group was in the community tent and they are veterinarians for birds of prey mostly, but birds in general. If you’re out in the woods and you see a hawk who is hopping around and can’t fly, you call them, they come out. They get the hawk, take it in and examine it and try to rehabilitate it, fix its broken wing. In fact, they are going to be releasing a hawk that had a broken wing that they rehabilitated in the next few weeks. While we were there, I was standing by the community building and I heard this thunk and I turned around and looked and there was a cardinal on the ground hopping around. It was this young, juvenile cardinal, which means all its feathers weren’t in, some brown, some red. It couldn’t fly. It didn’t seem to be flying. I ran over and I grabbed them and say hey, you want to show us what you do because there’s a cardinal now that’s run into something and can’t seem to fly away. They came over and they looked at it, they picked it up. They pulled its wings out. They felt around on it to see if there was anything wrong with it. As I was looking at this bird, you’re closer to a bird at this point than you’re ever really able to get to a songbird. It’s right in front of your face, you’re watching them work on it. It’s biting them and pecking at them. There’s this moment, I don’t speak bird so I’m not sure this is exactly what happened. There was this moment where the bird just gave in, okay, I’m relaxed now. You’re not trying to eat me, you’re not trying to kill me. They just slowly worked their way over this bird and they found out that it had a broken wing. They put it in a little box and they carried off to their place to try and rehab it and we’ll see what happens. There was maybe some head trauma too so you never know how those things turn out. It may not be good. But they were taking this beautiful animal, this wild, beautiful animal who completely gave in to their treatment, to their expertise, to their knowledge right there in front of me and is now on his way to see if he can be fixed up. There was something to me that was really poignant about that moment. It was the beauty of nature at the beauty of the farmer’s market with the beauty of these people’s expertise all coming together in a way that seems mathematically absolutely impossible that it would have ever happened. There was something about that beautiful communal moment that felt like beauty in the everyday.
Tsh: To me, it harkens back to that first thing that I mentioned which is watching people do their thing well. Bird fixing, that’s a very specific thing to do well, and yet, it’s a really good thing that people do that well. Then I will say, perhaps Amber’s ability to whip together something like this with her community of friends, I think this story speaks to the beauty of meeting a need you see. She saw the need for this farmer’s market and instead of wishing someone would do something about it, she did something about it. How many of us just stay at that spot of it would be great if somebody did that. Like when you’re walking around and you see litter everywhere and say someone should clean that up. It’s that same idea. I think it’s really cool that Amber did it and that she did it imperfectly. Like you said, starting it six weeks in, it’s not going to be done perfectly, and yet, she started it anyway. To me, I hear all sorts of hints of beauty from that story besides the obvious.
Seth: To be really clear, I think if you asked Amber, she would say of all these women that started it, there were five of them, that she was the one that’s like, let’s wait until 2022. We got to get this right. It was the leadership of this one really amazing woman who was like, nope, we’re doing it. It’s been cool to watch all their skillsets come together to create this beautiful communal place.
Tsh: That’s really cool and sounds amazing. I want to go check it out.
Seth: Come on up. What about one more place where you’re finding beauty in the everyday?
Tsh: I’m torn between these two. I’m debating. I’m going to go with this one. It’s a little more, I don’t want to say traditional, but it’s a little more universal, perhaps and that’s just summer sounds. I was thinking of this an hour ago and then I laughed as right when we were about to start recording, both neighbors across the way and one next to me decided to start playing dueling weed whackers, oh great. In case somebody has been able to hear it through the microphone, I don’t know if you can that’s what’s happened. Of course, I’m annoyed at that inconvenience but I also weirdly like the sound of it because it’s one of those sounds you don’t hear all the time, meaning year-round. I’ve decided, even though I don’t always love the feel of summer in Central Texas, I think it is possibly one of my favorite seasons. It might be my favorite season overall, not because of the feel but because of things like the sounds and the smells. For me, summer sounds are things like screen door slams and cicadas, even though it has that scorched earth apocalyptic sound, I still like the sound because, to me, it screams summer. Crickets at night. We could hear the Midsummer Night’s Dream from our front porch whenever they were rehearsing and going on, that sound. Backyard chickens, the sound they make, we’re starting to notice certain specific sounds when they are about to lay an egg. I just love sounds. Live music from several blocks away. Even just the universal sounds we all know like a lawnmower or rocking porch squeaks, things like that. It sounds cliche, it sounds over the top and a little too obvious and trope-y but I like them anyway. For me, it’s summer sounds.
Seth: That’s a really good one. I think that harkens back to where I’ve been sitting in the backyard for my coffee. It’s not just the beauty of the flowers, but it’s also those summer sounds. Everything again from birds to lawnmowers to dogs. One of my neighbors has a puppy. It annoys them in the morning, I think, so they put him outside and it’s so yippy. Yeah, summer sounds. That’s amazing.
Tsh: Noticing the summer sounds makes up for the ridiculousness of the summer heat. It’s my way of seeing the beauty even when things aren’t exactly how I want them to be such as 98% humidity.
Seth: Do you guys have that much humidity down there? Are you kidding me?
Tsh: We did a few days ago just because it was thunder storming. We get a lot of humidity, though, it’s in the eighties. It’s no bueno. That’s a huge reason we leave, it’s not so much the heat, it’s the humidity.
Seth: That’s rude. Anytime it’s above 100 and the humidity is above 80%, it’s just rude.
Tsh: It’s time to leave, exactly. What’s your final noticing of beauty right now?
Seth: Also in the sounds. Titus, my youngest is obsessed with music. He has been sitting as his piano, our piano, and listening to any piano song whatsoever. It can be anything from Billy Joel to Rachmaninoff, I don’t think it’s been Rachmaninoff but it has been some classical music. He will listen intently for hours and plink out the songs.
Seth: Just by ear. It’s really amazing to watch and he’s not always, again, it’s not like he’s nailing it. It’s not like he’s playing Rachmaninoff but just the ability to see and hear and listen and take it in and then translate it to the keyboard. He doesn’t do it by watching how-to videos or anything. He literally listens and then translates what he hears to the keyboard. That’s really beautiful to me for a variety of reasons. Primarily, the beauty of everyday simple music. I think that we, particularly those of us who play musical instruments, there’s a difference between those of us who play musical instruments and those of us who legitimately love the art of the musical instrument. What I mean by that is that I’m not, when I sit down with my guitar, I’m not necessarily trying to nail a song. I just really like to play what I’m feeling in the moment, or what I hear in the moment, or what’s coming to me. There’s something about that that’s just really fun and when I listen to Titus play piano. He’s not trying to nail the song. He’s just trying to play some representation of that song that makes him happy. He just smiles the whole time and it’s so fun to watch. I feel like I’m watching a child fall in love not with the perfection of music but with the idea, the notion, the sound, the pure joy of music, and that’s such a big part of my life that it’s just so fun to watch. For me, everyday beauty is legitimately watching him fall in love with this music. It’s amazing.
Tsh: I think it’s you appreciating the beauty of watching your own child discover beauty. Because everything you described about the music to me, that’s the beauty of music. That’s not the science of music, well, I guess the science is the beauty but you know what I mean. How old is he again?
Tsh: That’s remarkable.
Seth: Yeah, it is.
Tsh: That’s really, really cool. You know what, I bet that’s an encouragement to parents listening right now who are perhaps like not noticing the beauty of their kid practicing piano ad nauseam or telling them a million stories even though they’re really good at it but because they can’t get a moment of silence. The things that kids do just for the joy of childhood, it’s easy for us adults to wish it would stop and I think it’s really cool that you are choosing instead to notice the beauty of him discovering music.
Seth: It’s been amazing. I think, to your point, these original creators, the original creators of this music, they didn’t set out to mathematically figure out what would sound right to the ear. They sat down with passion and they played what they felt for the joy of the music. I think that’s one of the things that we do wrong in teaching kids music, I’ve been playing music now thirty-something years. For me, I think as I’ve seen even as I’ve taught kids’ guitar, I think one of the things that I’ve seen is to really suck the passion and joy of music at early ages by saying, now memorize your scales. We treat it like it is some science, some mathematical formula. There are great things about that, too. You have to know your scales. You have to know your time signatures. I get that stuff. Titus was in piano lessons two years ago and he got so freaked out at his first recital I thought he would give up forever. I felt really bad about that because I knew better. Over the pandemic, there was no pressure, there was nothing but for him, joy. He would just sit down and slowly work through the piano and it was a different way of approaching music and it’s just really worked for him.
Tsh: Did you know, fun fact, that the ancient Greeks categorized music as math? They actually categorized it as audible math.
Tsh: It was like geometry mathematics. I mean, geometry and music as a form of mathematics. I thought that was interesting.
Seth: There’s actually a whole body of work around geometric shapes of sounds and some ancient Pythagorean application of music which has been used by both Christianity and cults alike in order to conjure the spiritual mood. Music is really interesting when you start to get into the science side of it.
Tsh: I want to unpack music more in the show. Maybe our next season when we are in the fall, we can talk about why it’s so magical.
Seth: Yes, I’m in.
Tsh: You listening in, hearing us talk about the beauty in our lives, I think the obvious takeaway from listening to this is to make sure you do this regularly in your life. Whether that’s what I talked about in my essay this week of make it a habit of writing it down every morning or just pausing and realizing that something that could potentially be annoying is in fact beautiful. Seth and I, since we both really value the discovery of beauty in our lives, are excited about something that we can’t wait to share more with. I’m going to leave it as a cliffhanger because we can’t say more but it’s going to be really great, this opportunity for you to discover beauty with us, in person somewhere really, really cool. Get ready for that announcement. Was that cryptic enough?
Seth: Cryptic, indeed. But also exciting. If it wasn’t exciting it should be. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
Tsh: Yeah, I’m excited. Be listening for it. Make you’re subscribed to this so you don’t miss it. Seth, this is the part of our show when we transition to what thing of beauty is in your life and the whole episode was about that but I think we can still get specific and talk about something from this past week. What are you reading, watching, or listening to these days that’s adding a bit more beauty to your life?
Seth: None of the above. None of the above. I guess you could say I’m watching. I’m actually viewing. It’s a little bit different.
Seth: I have been, we’ve talked about this a little bit I think offline, I don’t think I’ve talked about it on the podcast. I’ve been exploring my earliest forays into both art and Catholicism and they intersecting in a really interesting way when I was really young. The summer before I started Catholic school in the fourth grade, my grandfather took us to Washington, D.C. We went to the National Gallery. At the National Gallery, for the first time, I came into contact with the work of Andrew Wyeth.
Tsh: Ooh, yeah.
Seth: I was really tiny. I was a small kid, after my third-grade year. Andrew Wyeth does a lot of things with unclothed women. There was definitely some, I was getting a lot of hot flashes there as a child. But his work is so intricate and detailed and the way he uses light and shadow is so amazing throughout all his paintings. Lately, I’ve been going back and trying to figure out where that nexus point was between this religious awakening I had in the fourth grade and the beauty of art and trying to find where they connected. I’ve been looking at a lot of old Andrew Wyeth paintings and the stuff that is really moving to me is the stuff where you can just see the slightest detail highlighted. A strand of hair or the way a set of curtains bends to the wind in his paintings. He’s able to somehow paint with a realism that is so moving that it feels like he somehow has been given a transcendent gift that most people don’t ever get in any area of their life. I’ve been looking at his paintings and just really taking it in and seeing, God, thank you for giving us an artist who can create with such realism and such beauty and even such whimsy in the way that he’ll pull out a single strand of hair or the way he’ll pull out a strand of lace or a single blade of grass. There’s just something about the work that really moves me.
Tsh: I remember pausing, my body couldn’t move on when I first came across…I cannot remember the name of the painting but it’s the one with the woman in the field and she’s looking at the house. What is that one called? I can’t remember.
Seth: I don’t remember the name of it but they actually had it here at Crystal Bridges not too long ago.
Tsh: Wow. Oh, man. That painting stopped me in my tracks and it’s really simple. It’s a woman in a field looking at a house. I mean, not really looking, but you have a million questions looking at it like what is going on. He stood out to me early on whenever I took some art classes in college as someone I really resonated with. I love that you mentioned that and that that’s the thing you’re watching.
Seth: That painting, I just looked it up, it’s called “Christina’s World”. “Christina’s World” is the one where I was talking about where you can look at it and see those individual blades of grass that she’s looking back to the hill in what feels like some bleak midwestern scene. It is a really astounding painting.
Tsh: We’ll put a link in the show notes if you’re now dying to know what it looks like. You’ve probably seen it in passing but when you see it more up close. Oh man, I’m looking at it again. It’s remarkable.
Seth: It’s truly amazing. Tsh, what’s one area of your life, what’s one thing you’ve been watching, listening to, or reading that has brought truth, goodness, or beauty to you?
Tsh: We can’t make this up. We don’t plan in advance or tell each other, mine’s an artist as well. She is very much alive and active on Instagram. I’m taking a queue from you and mentioning someone I have discovered through Instagram. My favorite thing, like you, is art. Treating Instagram as a museum instead of a mall and have you heard of the artist Jess Franks?
Tsh: Okay. She’s someone I discovered on the gram and I’m really glad I did. She paints landscapes but she paints them in a really unique way where they’re a little bit realistic and not quite so realistic, kind of both/and. In fact, I’m going to look up really fast. She says something in her bio, the way she describes it. She’s @jessfranksart on Instagram and she goes to a lot of great places, some of my favorite places, like National Parks. She just released a series on Maine. She says, “landscapes that dance the line between real and abstract.” That’s what it is. It’s really simple but I love her style. I really love it because it’s not modern art but it’s kind of a 21st-century take on landscapes. I am bookmarking ideas because I want to buy one for our house. First of all, I love buying art from the artist. I think that’s a real joy. I love supporting artists. I just really dig her use of colors and the scale that the paints. She just released, I don’t know just, currently available is her Maine series. She did a lot of landscapes on Maine which I have never been to but it’s high on my bucket list to go there. I am a big fan of Jess Franks and I look forward to hanging her work in my living room.
Seth: I’m looking at her feed right now and it is beautiful. It seems in some ways very simple but it’s not simple. It’s one of those that you look at and you’re like, oh, that is beautiful, simple, oh no, that’s not so simple [laugh].
Tsh: If you have the ability to zoom in that’s where my mind starts blowing. Oh, trees, lovely, in a Bob Ross way, then you zoom in, oh no, that’s a lot of geometric shapes.
Seth: That is beautiful work. I’m glad you pointed that out to me and I’m now following along.
Tsh: There you go. Alright, this is what we love to do. Find beauty, find artists and make sure that we add more to our lives. Really, that’s a great takeaway and a great way to end this show. If you’re wanting to add more beauty to your life perhaps, seek it out on places you are on anyway, like Instagram. You don’t just have to follow the people with six-figure follower counts because that’s who everyone else is following. Find the art that you like and click follow and make that part of your feed. I have not regretted that for a second.
Alright, it’s time to wrap this up. You can find this episode, as well as all episodes, at adrinkwithafriend.com. If you like what we’re bringing to your week, you can help keep this podcast alive and active by picking up the next round of drinks! This show is free for you to listen to but it’s not free for us to make, so at the cost of a cup of coffee or a pint, you can play a big part. Find the link for how to do this in the show notes of this episode, or at adrinkwithafriend.com, and thanks in advance.
Thank you to the many of you who have been doing that lately. We’ve had an uptick in people tossing coins in the tip jar and I’m really, really grateful.
Seth: Seriously! Without it, would I be drinking this mushroom kombucha? Probably not.
Tsh: Maybe not. Thank you, guys. You can find me and all my work, especially my newsletter and books, at tshoxenreider.com Seth, where can people find you?
Seth: You can find me at sethhaines.com. Super simple.
Tsh: Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, editing is by Kyle Oxenreider, and Caroline TeSelle is our transcriber and assistant extraordinaire. I’m Tsh Oxenreider with Seth Haines, and we’ll be back here with you soon.
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