Friday, April 14, 2017

A Thing of Beauty


I plan to have a salad for dinner this evening. The lettuce I bought is pictured above. This photo doesn't really do it justice: the beautiful rosette pattern of the leaves, their sheen and rich color, the lack of blemishes, tears, or wilted edges so common to ordinary heads of lettuce set this particular specimen apart as a thing of beauty.
This afternoon, I indulged myself at the bookstore (yes, again), purchasing two non-fiction books, Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, and Stoned, by Aja Raden. The first title is a scientist's memoir, remarkable for its wonderful writing as much as for the information imparted. In one of those lovely happenstances some people call coincidence (I don't believe in coincidence), within the first pages of the book, the author talks about looking at leaves. Really looking at them. How are they shaped? What shade of green are they? Are they large? Small? You get the idea. Clearly, I got the message to study my dinner with Zen-like attention.
The second book, Stoned, is about jewelry and it, too, is receiving accolades for excellent writing. In the first few pages, Raden argues that "the history of the world is the history of desire," and humans naturally desire beautiful things.
Ah, therein lies my conundrum. I want to keep the beauty of this perfect, fascinating plant. But that's impossible. I can't keep it sitting on the kitchen counter. Like all living things, it will ultimately spoil. The leaves will wither. Its perfect symmetry will be lost forever.
Yet, shredding the plant, ripping off the leaves, and tearing them into bite-sized pieces fills me with angst. Shoving them in my mouth and eating them smacks of absolute savagery.
However, it's nearing the dinner hour. I've duly recorded this lovely lettuce in a photo and with words. Savagery is rearing its ugly head, and this thing of beauty can not remain a joy forever.