pied beauty

One hundred points if you can tell me where on earth the title of this piece comes from. And no, it is not pied, as in “Boy, that guy really got pied by the weirdo with the big red nose.” No, the reference has nothing to do with banana cream, whipped cream, coconut cream (Ugh–why would anyone eat that??) or any other kind of cream thrown at anyone or anything, particularly something beautiful. Although it is often a tempting proposition for those with severe Angelina Jolie envy. My eventual point being, of course, that that kind of envy is a pointless waste of your time and your own god-given beauty. (Not to mention that, if taken to an extreme, it could get you arrested in 49 states.)

Pied beauty is a reference to a favorite poem of mine by Gerald Manley Hopkins, and it is in praise of just the sort of things the world around us fails to praise. Things that are imperfect. Things that have spots, differences, oddities. Things that don’t look like much on the outside, but when put to the fire show the beauty that has been hidden in their depths, for those either wise or stubborn enough to look for it. (Sometimes the line between those two is blurry at best.)

You see, I have three teenage daughters. No, I am not saying this to gain sympathy or to justify any errant insane ramblings as the product of waiting up too late the night before or lost brain cells due to inordinate stress. They are the joy of my life. That is why I cringe when they feel unbeautiful because they are “pied,” just like the rest of us. Not exactly like the crowd. No straight blonde hair or Barbie proportions or ability to utter the socially perfect quip at the socially perfect time. Oh, quite beautiful in their own right, but who ever sees that when the Wonderland Looking Glass is before them telling them they are totally inferior and off with their heads?

Welcome to The Imperfect Journey. Why that title? Because in all of the passions I want to talk about here–writing, theater, travel, gardening, planning absurd but totally legal (I think) capers with the aforementioned children–one thing ties it all together. We’re imperfect souls on a journey that will in no way be straight; and possibly, if we try, we can help one another discover our passions and dare to fly. As Hopkins says, striped and spotted, imperfect wings and all.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Gerald Manley Hopkins

2 thoughts on “pied beauty

  1. Jill I love what you have written. Often in my work as a therapist in the settings of hospitals, nursing homes, etc I see lots of “unsung” heroes who are caretakers and those who are ill that are very brave in the face of difficulties. Not necessarily attractive to the world–an old man somewhat unkempt taking a bus everyday to visit his Alzheimer's stricken wife–definitely “pied beauty”. Mildred


  2. jill

    I think those of you who care for those patients are beautiful as well. I've had some amazing nurses who made horrible hospital stays just a bit better. They don't get enough credit.


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