Week 3

"Beauty Walk" (Excerpt)

by Chris Jimmerson

Human rights and environmental activist, poet and scholar Carol Lee Sanchez is of Lakota Native American heritage. In her article, “Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral: The Sacred Connection,” she writes of how most Native American tribes do not have a concept for distinctions between humans and nature, the sacred and the material world.

Instead, they understand humans and animals, plants and all of the elements of our universe to be related and a part of each other. So, to be spiritual, to be a good person, humans must extend good intentions and good behavior toward not just other people but also toward creatures, plants and the elements. They call doing this, “to walk in Beauty” and it allows for seeing beauty in all.

Here is a sampling of how she describes walking in beauty:

When Native Americans refer to themselves as spiritual people, they are saying they believe that everything in the universe is imbued with spirit and they embrace, acknowledge, and respect the animating force within/surrounding/beyond all things, including humans. The idea of “the Sacred” held by traditional Indians is all-inclusive, and to be spiritual is to be ‘in communion’ with the Great Mystery.

I wonder how our world might change for the better if all people adopted this perspectiveIt is an understanding that truly became real to me just after my grandmother’s funeral. My family had gathered in the home where my grandparents had raised their children and then helped raise many of their grandchildren, including me. My grandfather had died a few years earlier.

Now, I loved my grandparents dearly, but I didn’t so much love the Beaumont-Port Arthur area of Texas where they lived and where I grew up. It is flat, swampy, hot, humid and filled with chemical refineries that from time to time fill the air with strange odors and light up the night sky with these giant torch towers which burn off waste gases.

All of this just did not fit with my concept of beauty.

Later that evening though, I excused myself and walked out into the yard where I had played so often as a child. Lit by the flame of one of those torch towers, the night sky was glowing with an orange-red light much like an amazing sunrise. And suddenly, I found that I could see and experience this odd sort of beauty.

And dwelling in that beauty, I was also finally able to truly feel the loss—realizing that I would never again be present in this place, this home where I had felt such warmth and safety and love. Beauty and Great Mystery all held in one glowing, polluted, lovely sky.