We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Find using OpenURL

Rent from DeepDyve Rent from DeepDyve

Beautiful Things
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:


I slice a beet in half and discover that it has rings. Rings like you would find on a tree stump to mark its age—one ring, one year.

But beets are young, have only known one spring, one summer, one early fall, perhaps also one winter passed inside in a dark, dry box. So what could each ring represent? Each season? Each snap of cold? Each grub that has burrowed blindly around the beet's girth in the cool black soil?

It makes me less serious to think about how much happens, silently, under my feet.


When my infant daughter wakes at two in the morning and her father cannot coax her back to sleep, she and I curl up on the mattress in the guest room below the big window, and I drift off with her tiny fingers gripping my thumb.

At dawn she sits up and stares out at the world so long and so hard that I start to wonder if she's watching a cat, perhaps, or a deer. But I look, and it is just the morning—new again, and worthy of attention.


This morning at church I plunked out the four parts of an old hymn while above my chords the congregation's voices took flight. And I thought of geese bursting up together from the edge of a pond where they had been napping and squabbling and pecking for fish.

Sometimes it is hard for me to believe in God, heaven, restoration, but it is easy on Sundays, when the Mennonites sing, to suspect that goodness is always paddling about at the edges of things.


I was struck today by a couple of things—the perfume of hyacinths, a woman with white hair that hung down to the backs of her knees—but I have finally settled on dust.

I had planned to dust today—had written it down on my list of things to do—but the baby was sick and in need of holding, and I wrote through her naptimes instead of fetching the cloth from under the sink and wiping it over the furniture. And so this dust is beautiful, if only because it reminds me I was busy with far more important things: nuzzling my daughter's neck and rubbing her chest with ointment and writing a page of sentences I may or may not keep.


Today, a work day, I made it through one class and graded half a stack of essays before the daycare called to tell me my daughter had spiked another fever. I have missed too much work already; I am haggard, forgetful, behind. But leaving campus I noticed the first magnolia trees of the season coming into bloom like young girls let loose in their mothers' closets, limbs too thin to support all those heavy blossoms. And I felt a little better.


This afternoon a friend brought over, among other things, a garter snake she had rescued from her cat. There was also the armful of forsythia branches she left on my porch, the violets she picked for my daughter, but the snake I held in my hands—let its head rest over my knuckles, its cool, lazy muscle coil in my palm. When I finally placed it in the grass at the end of our yard, it stretched itself out (a gesture of trust I suspect) and waited a full minute before sauntering into the ivy.


My little love is still sick—her nose a broken egg, her coughs like tiny barks. She has been sick for a couple of days, but today was the first day she grabbed on to my shirt and wouldn't let go. I am thirty-one years old. I have done a few things of which I am proud. But I don't believe I have ever felt so singularly necessary as I did today, her dimpled knuckles tugging my sleeves. I was a little frightened, and honored. And overwhelmed.


Had it not been for the vainglorious crimson cardinal strutting up and down the branches of our lilac tree, I might not have noticed the discreet female who...

You must be logged in through an institution that subscribes to this journal or book to access the full text.


Shibboleth authentication is only available to registered institutions.

Project MUSE

For subscribing associations only.

Research Areas


  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access