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Column Archives > Appreciating beauty from every angle

28 Jul 2023

By Louise R. Shaw


The mountains are what get your attention first.

So it's no surprise when you pull into the parking lot that you see easels lined up facing those mountains, and artists painting their interpretations of the grand, majestic peaks.

The Grand Tetons seem made to be painted and photographed. Whether it's sunrise or sunset, cloudy or sunny, wintry or in spring, that range, true to its name, is just plain grand, and every picture has a pretty good chance of being grand too.

We were in Jackson Hole during July some years ago and pleased that we timed our family gathering with the annual Plein Air for the Park, celebrating the work of 35 recognized artists.

We watched a few of them work for a while, then noticed there were more artists farther afield, who'd been drawn to different scenes scattered around the grounds near Menor's Ferry.

Some weren't facing the mountains, but had their backs to the range, looking at a variety of natural and manmade scenes from a variety of unique angles.

One was painting the river and the reflection of the trees along its banks. Several were capturing the old white-washed buildings at the ferry crossing, others made an old wooden church the focus of their work. One had centered her painting on a rugged split-rail fence. One painted a rocky, dirt road.

Which brings me to my point.

There are many big and grand things in our lives and November is the month we make a point to notice them.

We set up our easels and we gaze at them and we say thank you -- for health, for family, for living in freedom.

But maybe more than just November, we should turn our easels around and look at the little wooden churches and the trees along the riverbank.

They're the things that usually go unnoticed, like having a car to drive to work, having a flu shot to help avoid a week in bed, having ears that bring in music and conversation, having Internet to keep in touch with loved ones far away, having something to believe in, having someplece to call home.

And sometimes maybe we should angle our easels a bit more and look at even the split-log fences and the dirt roads.

They're the government we think is failing us but still somehow keeps us safe and fights our battles abroad, they're the responsibilities we think are too much but somehow keep us invested and involved, they're the people we think are difficult but somehow make life interesting and educational.

And I'll let you take it from there.

There is beauty in the grand and there is beauty in the little and there is beauty in what comes between.

More than a month, we can spend all year being grateful for it all.


Adapted from a column first published in the Davis Clipper on Nov. 13, 2014

Louise R. Shaw