Fine. I’ll admit it, here and now. I’m shallow. There, I said it. I am a shallow person. I can’t help it, it must be a condition… I am attracted by beauty.
Whether it’s food (and yes, I need food to look appealing, or I won’t eat a bite, no matter how it smells), or people, or the world. I thrive in beauty.
See, I’m a visual person, if that’s the correct term. I need things to catch my attention, to draw me to them, before I can actually consider investigating them further. I need beauty.
You might be wondering why I have suddenly gathered so much courage, and stepped forward to admit this horrible (yes, for some people will judge me, and their opinion of me will have forever changed) flaw in my personality. How did this happen? I hear you say, she was such a nice person, always said hi with a smile… I have decided to come forward because of a writing challenge.
Today, I received in my inbox an email from The Daily Post, with inspiration for this week’s writing challenge. The title of the challenge is The Devil is in the Details. Such a good title… As soon as I read it, I knew what it was about: descriptions.
See? Being a visual person is great for a writer, it helps imagine wonderful lands, intricate situations, colourful characters and thrilling stories; after all, we see them in our mind. However, at least in my case, it does get frustrating more often than not: I can’t describe what I see for the life of me.
Seriously, as a writer (in progress), it does my head in. I want my character to be walking along a busy street, at rush hour, dodging the fellow passers-by who all look grey and dull, walking aimlessly, lost in their own troubles and thoughts, a mass of undefined beings. It’s probably winter, so everyone walks huddled up in their coats and layers of clothing, trying to shake off the cold, under the dim light cast by the street lamps. I want the reader to feel the crisp air around my character, to feel the cold air when he inhales through his nose, and feel the warmth of his breath leaving through his mouth. I would love to be able to convey the image of a solitary man, walking through the streets just for the sake of passing the time, just for the sake of walking, feeling the pavement under his worn out leather shoes. He’s probably stealing glances at people, and wondering if they can see him. With his hands inside the pockets of his padded tattered winter coat, that now looks faded but might have been brown a long time ago. He’s wearing a knitted hat which has seen better days, covering his matted blonde ruffled hair. He’s walking with hunched shoulders, trying to cover his neck from the cold, and is squinting his eyes. Snow has started falling. He suddenly stops, and closes his eyes, tilting his head backwards, to let the snowflakes land on his stubble. I want my reader to see him smile, and to smile with him while he turns around a corner, and finds his usual spot amongst a pile of cardboard boxes, too cold to even feel the pang of hunger in his belly. I want my readers to see how he gingerly takes the hand out of his pocket, and brings out a piece of hardened bread, and without any hesitation, he lifts a bundle of clothes next to him, where an almost starved old greyhound is laying down, and gives him the piece of bread, with a pat on the head and a warm smile on his face. I want my readers to be able to see him, so that next time he doesn’t have to wonder.
I can’t. It’s so difficult. Beauty is elusive. You can feel it from the corner of your eye, but when you turn, it’s gone. However, I’m still attracted to it. What can I say? I’m shallow.
I can’t help but love the way ripples form in the water of the pond in Clapham Common, whenever the wind is blowing, no matter how soft. Last week, the pond was frozen. The whole surface was covered in a thin layer of ice, and dozens of birds were walking, or simply resting, on it. I don’t know what kind of birds they were, but I know they were beautiful, in a way only nature knows how. To you, they might have been seagulls, or a close relative; to me they were freedom. The white feathers on their body, in contrast with the black tips of their wings, whenever they spread them, was a breath taking view. They were walking around on the ice, and flying above the pond. Whenever they tried to land, they suddenly became ice skating performers, sliding on the ice, trying to regain their balance by flapping their wings, and marking the pond with lines.
I still don’t feel it. There’s something missing… If I close my eyes, I can almost see it, there again, just out of reach. I can stretch my arm, my hand, my fingers, and just brush it with my fingertips, but it is still too far. Beauty. Such a difficult thing to describe.
I can’t help it, I’m attracted to beauty. I’m the most shallowest person alive. I can’t help but to love the knowing glint in the eye of someone you share a secret with, the curve of a neck, the delicate composition of the petals of a flower, the creased and worn spine of a well-read book, the vibrant colours of a children’s drawing, the mark of a red lipstick left forgotten after a kiss, the tingle in your ears when hearing children laugh, the droplets flying around from a dog’s fur who is drying himself, a line of ants in perfect formation, the rusted metal of a cemetery gate, the grey light from a winter’s day in London…
I can see all these things in my mind, I wish I could find the words to make you see them too.