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MUSE LILY WHITE RECONCILES PARADOX

While Loss and Sorrow get all the credit for character building and growth,
we are too familiar with and accustomed to their company.
It is Beauty who awakens, humbles, and requires us to grow
if we are to tolerate the glory of her presence.
Caron McCloud  

We had just made our selections from the exotic East Indian menu when the woman walked in. The late afternoon sunlight suddenly  flooding the dining room through windows framed in persimmon walls and shining on dark grained highly polished wood tables and cozy pillowed booths,  provided the perfect setting — or stage — for her entrance.

She appeared as though stepping from an Impressionist painting, but as one having passed through gathering the best qualities from several eras. Let’s start with the wide brimmed fine straw hat shading the porcelain skin and delicate bone structure that once epitomized the criteria for beauty in women of the aristocracies of a once elegant race that ruled the world, now moving into extinction.

Her slender body was accentuated be a straight tunic-cut shirt of white linen — the only fabric I can think of as  successfully reconciling paradox by being both crisp and soft at the same time. The hand rolled hem arrived right on schedule at its finger tip length destination where hip turns the curve to become the terrain of thigh. From here pale blue pin stripe seersucker capri pants traveled the leg to arrive fashionably early just before calf becomes ankle.

The silence of her thin strapped sandals— matching the maxim “the less shoe the better”— as the host accompanied her across the room,  seemed to induce a meditation. Upon removing her hat as she was seated at her table by a window, the sunlight rushed with every intention to catch itself in her hair, but in coming near, stopped short at the sight of the sacred being and settled for hovering over the white hair that streamed below her waist. Yes, white! Did I fail to mention that she was old?

No one really ever knows how old these creatures are, but it turns out often enough that since they are always older than they look, I was justified in  the assumption that she might rival my three quarters of a century on this planet.

I was grateful for the distraction — lest my staring embarrass her or myself — when, preceded by the pungent scent of curry and fig, the food arrived, perfectly prepared and presented. My daughter, Shiloh, and I ceased staring and beginning to eat, we resumed our celebration of the success of the first four day session of the Color of Woman Seminar that she had created, and how delighted and amazed we were with the women who were participating and with the quality of the paintings they were producing and the “break throughs” they were experiencing.

During our delicious meal and conversation,  our eyes would travel back to capture the detail of her, watched as food and wine was gracefully brought to her mouth with the slender hands which time had finally  convinced to reveal some definition to the intricate miracle of bone and vein. We watched this one who dined alone. Alone, that is, except for the perfect composure which accompanies those few who occasionally dine alone because they choose to do so. Those few who are accustomed to and at home in the gazing upon of others.

I knew I was being permanently imprinted by this woman, as I thought back on another such being I’d witnessed in Hong Kong thirty some years ago, while dining with friends in what was then considered one of the finest restaurants in the world. And certainly one of the most romantic. Here arrived one of these solitary beauties that silences a room upon entry with their elegance, style, and “I choose to dine alone” composure.

“I choose to order wine,” she seemed to state, “that meets with my refined esthetic from the waiter who hovers over me and lights my cigarette. I choose to take this red rose with my impeccably manicured long fingers from the crystal vase between the white candles on my white table cloth, and after consuming its fragrance, place it exactly where it belongs in my dark upswept hair.  And I choose to indulge myself for several hours with these exquisite courses, and then sit smoking contentedly contemplating the mystery of myself over brandy.”

She has been my Bella Rosa Muse ever since.

I arose, while my daughter paid for our meal, and went to pay homage to my new muse, hoping that, besides interrupting her dinner, I would not do something stupid, like trip and bump her table, or spill sudden tears into her soup.

Up close, face raised and open to me like a lily in full bloom, I knew why the sun had halted its rush to touch her and was satisfied with hovering. I wanted to tell her all these things that I am telling now, but the soup would have gotten cold and the salad wilted. Besides I  could bring speech to nothing more original than, “I apologize for intruding, and I know that you hear this all the time, but I can’t leave without saying — You are so beautiful.”

She reached out to me with both hands and we clasped each other’s arms just where the forearms narrow to become the wrists, and with her pale blue eyes shining their light on me and, again reconciling paradox, by speaking in a voice tuned by both dignity and warmth, she said, “ From one beautiful woman to another — thank you. You have made my day.”

Since then I have missed no opportunity to tell this story of my encounter with Muse Lily White. And I have yet to tell it without tears. Even though we know that Beauty brings us to our knees to worship at her shrine, and that those who chose to serve her have learned that she is the most strict and demanding mistress of all, one may wonder, “Why tears?”

“Well,” as Doctor E might say, “ Let me tell you.”

Coming into the presence of Lily White happened, as already noted, just after four incredible days of being in the Color of Woman Seminar. I was with almost two dozen beautiful women, assisting in and supporting their process to access and experience images of themselves and/or their muses through painting. We had spoken much of whether muses come from within us or from outside of us, or both. We had spoken much of Beauty.

I watched these women move into relationship with their canvases with the commitment and courage and grace of  dancers, or warriors, or priests.  Watching them move between inspiration, and despair as they struggled through a sense of unyielding stubborn canvases and unwieldy stubby brushes and, most of all, with a silent unrelenting ancient rage of self criticism and doubt.

And then, through their diligence,  open hearts, and ability to receive instruction regarding the least thing, maybe the mixing of color, or how attending to less than a quarter of an inch of a line can change everything, or the sweep of a bold and single stroke, or how the placement of a tiny dot of paint in an eye can light the entire canvas, we would see them suddenly dance back from their canvas to witness what had been destined to materialize from the time they were born— to look upon her at last and to exclaim, “Oh my God! I love her! She is beautiful!”

And in seeing their own beauty gazing back at them, they see the beauty of everyone and fall in love with everyone in the room. Including me. Many came to tell me that I am beautiful and how they hope to look as good as I do when they reach my age.

But it wasn’t until Lily White reached out to me in her response that I really got it. And I was humbled. I realized how shallow my responses to the compliments lavished on me had been. I had behaved demurely, saying things like, “Oh thank you Honey, that is so sweet of you to say that,” while thinking things like, oh they’re just saying that because I saw them through hard places in their process or because I am Shiloh’s mother. I had not forth rightly  received what they were giving , nor validated their perceptions.

So, why the tears? Perhaps because I have to be reminded that all our striving to find our way in this reality that exists in a Paradigm of Paradox can only be relieved and reconciled by Beauty. After all these years, and all these compliments, I had not recognized the false pride that prevented my receiving until I was humbled before Lily White, and witnessed her, not only receive my compliment, but upgrade it to the knowledge of acknowledgment. Not only did she receive this knowledge, but she validated it by claiming and owning and standing for the truth that she is beautiful, and speaking to me from that stance  saying, “ From one beautiful woman to another — thank you. You have made my day.”

So again, Beauty,  the relentless mistress whom I serve, brings me to tears and to my knees with the revelation of her sister Grace, whom she will not expose to those who cannot receive and are unwilling to stand for their own value. So now, besides serving Beauty, I will honor her sister with the writing of this thank you from one beautiful woman to all of you beautiful women who will receive the truth of beauty and stand for your gifts.

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