“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius
According to a 2019 report, I live in America’s fifth-gloomiest city. This does not come as a surprise; any yinzer could tell you that Pittsburgh has far more days of rain and clouds than most of us would prefer. But when the clouds get thick, you have to learn to look on the bright side.
Some days, when I leave home – a Bruderhof house in Pittsburgh – to start my one-mile trek to classes at Carlow University, I resolve to notice at least five beautiful things on my way. It’s how I stay positive when all I see is wet, gray buildings and dull colors. And usually, by the time I am halfway to class, I have long surpassed my goal. On winter days, it might be the soft, thin whiteness that sharpens the features of every tree and disguises the dullness of cold concrete. In the rain, it’s the Christmas-colored glitter that the traffic lights spread across the pavement or the glistening drops suspended on the twigs. On not-quite-spring days, sometimes the only green I can see is the dull ivy cascading over the retaining wall. But a closer look reveals the rich tones of burgundy and lime in the leaf-tips. The pesky gray squirrels that inhabit the city’s trees can be seen bounding across lawns with their fluffy tails playfully trailing them. Their avian cousins offer their sanguine trills to passing pedestrians. Beauty abounds in the city for the observant eye.
I think clouds are underrated. Their untamable turbulence on a windy day is a dance of ever-changing beauty.
While I’d like to see the sun more often, I think clouds are underrated. Their untamable turbulence on a windy day is a dance of ever-changing beauty. Contrasting shades of steel blue and ashy gray swirl unpredictably, driven by a wind relentless as the rush-hour traffic of late afternoon. I never tire of sky-gazing, although Steel City traffic requires my full attention whenever I ford a crosswalk.
My favorite place to watch the sky is the reservoir near my home, where the winds are unchecked by trees or buildings. Strolling the reservoir hill, I can feel the strength of gusting winds at my back. I watch the skies change, every shift of light slanting across hilly neighborhoods to refract off the windows of office buildings. Here on the hill, I can find the freedom to seize joy in the moments of sunshine that perforate the clouds. And here I can inhale the elation of life that is pulsing through the incessant noise of even the gloomiest cities of America. And gloom, after all, is subjective. In the shadowy courtyard I pass on my homeward way – look! A shaft of gold… forsythia.