Bring on the Beauty

I just received in the mail my first in a long time ridiculously expensive relative to my income bracket purchase, perhaps the first ever that is not a bicycle. It’s way too nerdy and grown up of an item for such an event, but I’ve been staring at my new “upcycled wooden desk trays,” vintage distressed French country style, and feeling really happy ever since I opened the package. Perhaps nothing I’ve bought in my life has come with so many adjectives attached.

wooden desk trays labeled "in" and "out" with scrabble tiles
Upcycled wooden desk trays from Vintage Chichibean on Etsy

Let me express my appreciation for the word “upcycled.” I am generally not a fan of creating words unless you can do it as well as Roald Dahl, but upcycled is a brilliant marketing word, appealing to people’s vanity and environmental consciousness all at once.

I admire not only the description but also the physical presence of my desk trays. I like the size and shape of them, the heft, the way they’re cleverly slotted together. I like the unevenness of the paint and the yellow-green color that is more attractive than yellow-green has any business being.

The way buying new stuff can make us happy used to worry me. I have a complicated relationship with the physical, which I suspect I share with many Americans. On one hand, we are deluged with marketing telling us that our appearance matters more than anything else, and on the other, we hold onto our Puritan forebearers’ attitude that physical things are not particularly worthy or holy and possibly downright sinful.

But we are physical beings, and we are drawn to and enlivened by beauty of various types, many of which we experience through our senses. Few would argue that a painting by Rembrandt or Monet is shallow because its beauty is physical.

I’m not saying I’m going to sprinkle holy water on my desk trays (that would be blessed vintage distressed French country style), but I welcome them both for the enjoyment they’re already bringing me and for the reminder that beauty comes in many forms, and we need them all.

54 thoughts on “Bring on the Beauty

  1. Thank you for this. I was looking for validation (a word I have come to hate almost as much as “closure”) as to why I should purchase a beautiful tooled leather bound cover for a ridiculously priced Christmas gift I received, knowing that I could find something equally functional or more, at a far lesser price, but I know that I would love holding this amazing cover just for it’s sheer beauty. Here: e49tzprZMU. Help me pick. I am leaning towards the Dragonfly Pond in green. And Happy New Year!

  2. Aha, I sense that my cloth desk trays that are now sagging and have been for a while are replaced! I’m so glad you are enjoying your new ones. Did they come with the scrabble tiles? : )

  3. I get worried about how happy something newly purchased and beautiful makes me feel, too, and I rationalize it the same way. While consumerism in general can be a deeply negative thing, voting with your dollars for an elegant bit of joy can be profoundly positive… right? Here’s hopin’!

  4. I’ve never heard the word “upcycled” before—I don’t see a definition of it in your post. Am I missing something? OK, I’ll have to Google it…

  5. Great post! I am following you now! My name is Carlos, if you ever want to know about Ocean Paddling news follow us back. Cheers!

  6. “I am generally not a fan of creating words unless you can do it as well as Roald Dahl…”Haha, yes! I agree with you completely.

    I just bought a spinning wheel and it was also the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, aside from a bike. And, lordy me, it is beautiful. Not upcycled, recycled, or anything else unfortunately, but wonderful and wooden all the same. It is good to be surrounded by beauty.

    Congratulations on getting pressed!

    • Thanks. Yay for all things “wonderful and wooden!” And good luck with your book. For a while in San Francisco on Market Street they had these large displays about urban ecology that I found so refreshing.

      • That sounds marvelous!! I would love to stick my nose in those books all day long. You don’t happen to recall any titles, do you? Always on the look out for new titles.

  7. Sweet post. My house is so full of stuff at this point that I only get annoyed at myself when I purchase something new. Except for books – special exception for buying books. That makes me *very* happy. I hope you find an agent for your book! Your writing is quite nice – simple but rich.
    Congrats on the FP!
    I’m right there w/ you on the community, God, laughter, and chocolate!

  8. Lovely post. A day without some visual beauty in it is a very sad thing. Better to have a few things that give you such tremendous pleasure than a home filled with serviceable junk you just don’t like very much.

    • “Serviceable junk”–well said. I have sometimes allowed myself to be convinced that serviceable and practical are synonymous, which of course they’re not. What’s practical about surrounding yourself with things that don’t, as you say, bring you joy?

  9. Those are a keeper. Any object where you can pause in the day and realize it is a well-crafted, static object capable of outlasting a power surge, able in its completely amotive sense to appeal to some conscience of aesthetics, is a good Thing. Bring on those little smiles.

  10. I definitely love wooden materials because apparently, wooden lasts longer. I totally agree with you that beauty comes in all forms differently. I’m glad you are fully fulfilled and contented even just in simple things. This is truly a wonderful post.

  11. We all have our own definition of beauty and of beautiful things. Whether its expensive or not is also relative on how we see it or how much we like it. I think you made a good purchase. 🙂

  12. This is a great perspective! I’ve been struggling with what exactly is shallow beauty and inspired beauty. I’ve been an a minimalist mission for the past year and initially thought that “everything must go” but upon reflection I’ve found that there are some items that make me generally happy…
    Great post!

  13. Great purchase, and it’s definitely not sinful to be attracted to beautiful things.
    However, painting is not only a physical thing, even though, canvas, paint, and some other artwork elements are. Painting becomes painting only when that piece of canvas, that sheet of paper has some esthetic value, when it contains some idea, when it triggers an emotional or intellectual reaction. I mean, not everything is painting, but beauty (including the beauty of physical items) can be only experienced through perception. I think, you have done the right thing, because experiencing beauty should always result in satisfaction, emotional well-being and pleasure.

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