“I’ve always found this a trying time of the year. The leaves not yet out, mud everywhere you go. Frosty mornings gone. Sunny mornings not yet come. Give me blizzards and frozen pipes, but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world.” — C.S.Lewis in Shadowlands
I’m so ready for spring, and last weekend I needed a Beauty Break. Badly. I’m not talking about manicures or makeovers. A new ‘do or fancy frock may make me feel all togged down, as Mama Lou would say, but later, if I couldn’t afford it, I’m left feeling all bogged down. I’m talking about focusing on beauty. Thankfully, the world brims with it. Somewhere—whether in urban parks or suburban backyards—there’s a place to look up at blue and out at green. To breathe. To relax. To enjoy. For free. Or almost at the legendary La Mamounia Marrakech.
Voted “Best Urban Hotel in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2013, the hotel was, until 1923, the palace of Prince Moulay Mamoun, son of Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, ruler of Marrakech in the 18th century. I was treated like a queen last Saturday though I wasn’t there for the 750 dirham/$78 USD lunch buffet by the pool nor for a room (starting at just under 500 Euro per night).
Winston Churchill loved painting there and, as Con Coughlin reported in The Telegraph, invited President FDR to meet him there where they made history.
Other guests have included Sean Connery, Kate Winslet and Hitchcock’s cast of The Man Who Knew Too Much. While directing Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart some say the king of thrillers decided to make the movie The Birds. Judging from fine feathered friends eyeballing me from orange trees and chasing one another under my chair , I see why. I loved their singing–my own pre-Grammy show.
Studies show workplace productivity increases when employees have windows with views. Natural light and green space reduces stress and boosts morale. The University of Washington lists many benefits of going green, including alleviating symptoms of Alzheimers, demntia, stress, and ADD. Nature breaks also enhance development of cognitive, imaginative, and social function. More basic, almost twenty years ago Brent Curtis and John Eldredge in The Sacred Romance affirmed what I felt. God created humans with three basic needs: relationship, adventure, and beauty. Likewise a decade ago Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way sent me out on weekly “artist dates.” She was right, “Creativity lies in paradox: serious art is born from serious play.” We are serious art, created and creators. Daily we fashion our lives through choices—some deciding how to deal with setbacks we didn’t choose. When my children were small and I was a full time teacher and single mom,I tried to write in every spare moment I could find. There weren’t many. Still, I learned that when the kids were with their dad I needed to do more than clean house and grocery shop. Writing was refuge, but the good stuff , truth, came faster after focusing on my play date, God, as he showed me the world He made. I needed to back away from the laptop and go find pretty—whether in paintings hanging on the Frist Center walls, in light reflected off Old Hickory Lake, in woods surrounding a Monteagle B and B. I now live in Marrakesh, a city where garden havens hide behind ocre walls. With filtered lenses and selective shots its easy to live in a Pinterest Perfect world, censoring ugly realities–human, animal, and environmental ills– that need our attention. Yet paradoxically, to face what’s wrong…to remember good ultimately wins… starts with focusing on what’s already lovely and worthy of praise. Hearts thirsting for the world-made-right-again are quenched beside fountains of blessings. And lifted when we simply look up.