With our hectic lives, juggling multiple responsibilities, it's easy to get caught up with the 'stress of life'. When I was working, I began an experiment to take my mind off the hustle and bustle, and in its place to focus on beauty. I began to collect leaves. Every day for three weeks on my walk from the bus to work, I looked for the most beautiful leaf of the day, slipping it into a book for safekeeping. When I got home I'd press the leaf, allowing it to dry flat.
Next, I chose the top three most beautiful leaves from my collection by looking for a variety of shapes, colours, textures and patterns. Then I scanned the leaves and used computer graphics software to add a background layer of a photo from a hiking trip. Then I twisted, stretched and gave the background a granular texture. Next, I played around with different compositions of the leaves, placing them on top of the background layer, making them appear as if they were floating gently down from the sky. Then I printed and framed many of these pictures, giving them out as holiday gifts.
I continue to make this search for beauty a part of my daily life. Sometimes I collect the most beautiful pebble of the day, using it as a touchstone in my pocket – to focus on its unique shape and texture. Other times I may sketch the people around me – quickly capturing the most interesting faces, which in my eyes are beautiful.
Beauty can be perceived through many senses, not just sight and touch, but also through sound. If you slow down and listen, you'll hear a wealth of sounds playing in the background. For example, when taking transit and in public places, I pay attention to the musical sounds of people's voices. When I lived in downtown Toronto, I'd listen to the different cadences of languages from all over the world. It's not just voices that can be perceived as beautiful, but also the rhythmic sounds of an old building's ancient heating system, or the squeaky sounds of doors. Some outside sounds also hold beauty for me – like telephone wires flapping in the wind against a tree, and the hum of bus and car motors. Beauty is in the eye, palm and ears of the beholder.
When I consciously shift my focus to the beauty around me, I feel calmer, happier and generally less tired at the end of the day. The thing is to focus on what is uniquely beautiful to you. The process of looking for beauty can help shift the tension out of our minds and allow an uplifting feeling to take its place.
Go on, try it - slow down and take in the beauty around you in your day-to-day life.