The summer we moved to southwest Oklahoma, the weather men (people?) had already clocked close to 100 days of over 100 degree heat. And the end was no where in sight. The base was baked to a golden brown crisp and as I walked the neighborhood, pushing Littles in the stroller (Tiny was still in process at the time), I could smell the dog poop baking in the heat.
Aesthetically, the ugliness was a slap in the face to me. It was hard not to feel depressed.
In an effort to distract myself (and also make friends--I've heard this is a positive thing when you move), I started attending a women's Bible study. The very first night, the topic of watering your grass was brought up. Two of the most out spoken women in the group (wonderful women who love Jesus) were quick to expound on the evils of watering your yard during the hot summer days when we had received hardly a drop of rain. Who cares, they said, whether or not your grass dies? What does it matter if your yard is brown?
Being the newbie in the group (and a self-confessed door mat), I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to rock the boat, but the truth was that we had been some of those evil sinners watering our yard. There was no watering ban in effect, and my wonderful husband, concerned for his slightly neurotic pregnant wife who was homesick for green in a sea of dead Oklahoma brown, was diligently watering every evening. Every. Evening. My ability to maintain sanity is a positive thing for him and worth working for. This is also why he makes sure I am consistently stocked with coffee, good books, and frequent access to international cuisine.
Anyway, that night as I lay awake in bed, I thought about what they had said. I wondered if I should tell the Man to stop watering. I wondered if I should feel guilty for the joy it gave me to look out my front window and see at least one small patch of green. I wondered if my need for beauty was completely selfish and self-serving.
But the truth is, those women (as good hearted and conscientious as they were) had no idea how one tiny attempt at beauty fed my soul. That summer was so hot you could see the heat shimmer above the asphalt. There were no leaves on the trees. Our backyard was a dustbowl. And my heart was sick for some small glimpse of beauty, some reminder that not everything was dead, some anchor of hope for my displaced heart. Our verdant front yard was that for me. That small patch of growing life was life for me. It helped me say thank you.
And maybe that is the point of beauty. Not that it is some selfish, self-serving, attention grabbing obsession, but that it has the potential to draw us closer to God, to lead us into His presence, to keep us in a position of gratitude before him. If that's the case, there is value in it.
Even if the consequence is looking like a self-absorbed anti-environmentalist who is diligently (and single-handedly!) poking holes in the ozone layer and bringing us closer to the next ice age one sprinkler system at a time.