I met a woman who was healed by beauty. An alcoholic who spent fifteen years keeping the anger and bitterness of her heart anesthetized; a woman who sought abusive men because their anger, their fists somehow confirmed, and gave expression to the self-hatred within. Until one morning, at thirty-eight years old, she woke up and noticed her house was in shambles and decided, for some mysterious reason, to clean it up. She picked up clothes, did dishes, vacuumed floors, set the garbage outside, scrubbed toilets, and mopped floors. Without any conscious intention, for the first time in a five years, she made it through morning and into late afternoon sober. The experience was so strange and exotic that even though it was December, in the mountains of Southern Oregon, even though the air was cold and damp, she felt a burning desire to go outside. She wanted to see what the outdoors felt like with her senses awake, without the dull blanket of alcohol.
In a t-shirt and jeans, her feet covered in wool socks, she walked outside onto the rough, wild grass of the mountain cabin she’d been renting. She looked up and noticed, as if for the first time, the deep green of the Siskiyou mountains. She stood spellbound by the black clouds that waited patiently at rim of these same green mountains. She could sense the winter sun glowing within a dark shroud of clouds and then heard herself gasp when this same sun splintered the dark grey eyelids and spread a thin shaft of yellow light across the mountains and spilled down over the soft and rolling farmlands at the bottom of the Rogue Valley. “I just fell back, sat in the wet grass, and began to weep. It was not the kind of nature image that anyone would paint or put at the end of a movie…it was just dark, messy storm clouds gathering, and muted sunlight, and the damp green mountains of an Oregon winter–but I saw it, and I heard the wind, and I could smell the cold grass and pine trees, and I could feel, on my skin, the warmth of the sun, this warmth coming across a million miles of dark space just to land, for a few seconds, on my poor, confused face. That was the day I stopped drinking. That was the moment I changed my life. That was the day beauty saved me.”