The Cost of Beauty

In the course of expressing herself about how I have helped awaken a desire for “beautifying our surroundings at a small cost,” a Kentucky woman has written some nice things to me which, like any other endeavoring soul, I have been glad to read. 

Cost of BeautyPin

She has opened up again in my mind the whole matter of home and community betterment.

Improving Our Surroundings

Most of us begin thinking about improving our surroundings with our minds focused on a sizable figure preceded by a dollar sign. 

This good woman, however, began when she had an opportunity to obtain a home, in the surroundings of which she saw beauty ready to be opened up at the smallest possible cost. 

Lier’s comment brought to mind another instance of doing things for a purpose rather than because of careless cash.

Summer Mountain Community

I had just been concerned with a little summer mountain community that totaled 185 native inhabitants. 

Because the people who came there as visitors subconsciously taught those inhabitants the appreciation of natural beauty, they had cleaned up, cleared up, and done all the other things that make a small community uniquely fine. 

They seemed to have no room for dirty houses, and because the mountain beauty suggested what they might do, they built with their own tax money a neat little community hall and an orderly place where their fire apparatus was housed.

Then, being in the mood for betterment, they followed the indications of their state legislature and adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance which, among oilier things, has been of vast advantage to them because it has chased off a booze merchant.

Advertisement Of The Town

The town has simply advertised that it is not only clean, neat, and orderly but that it does not want booze.

In its several summer hotels, it provides high comfort for about a thousand visitors who come to its lovely lake and its deep forests.

Now, this good Kentucky woman I’ve preferred to when she found the little home she was looking for immediately undertook to improve the surroundings.

She took care of the trees that were there, and she bought plants to better the assortment. 

She admits that she made many mistakes, but they only strengthened her mental muscles, which insisted that surrounding beauty is the highest kind of value, both practical and ideal.

Lifetime Civic Endeavor

I bring these two items to mind right now because the same GROWER audience which stirred up one instance also stirred up the other. 

Many times in the long lifetime of civic endeavor which has beset me, I have noted that. 

Although one might first think of beauty as an abstract quality of something purchased, he often finds out later that true beauty simply happens when things are “bettered.”

My mind takes me back a long way to a time when a group of us decided it would be ‘wise to look around the slums of the city where I live and see whether we could not better them. 

Quite Nasty Backyards

We found filthy backyards, disorderly buildings, and no beauty at all. But one boy had planted just one petunia in the quite nasty backyard of his home. 

We gave him a prize, and the jeers from the neighborhood boys and girls when the committee visited this boy changed to envy so deep that the inevitable happened, and other petunias soon were planted. 

The mere sight of a beautiful object, placed somewhere not so much for its charm of form as for the fact that the atmosphere of beauty goes with it, is the principle that had this remarkable effect. And I think it always does.

Beautiful City

Speaking of beauty, incidentally, I recall the frequent necessity of defining the word when I was descanting in various parts of the United States on “The City Beautiful and What Makes It Happen.” 

To have an anchor for my thoughts, dictionaries were consulted, and a sort of combination definition was arrived at, which defined beauty as that quality of an object whereby the contemplation of it excites pleasurable emotions. 

This beauty, of course, does not fit an over-dressed man or, indeed, an over-dressed woman; neither does it attach to mere meretricious display. 

But it applies to thoughts and objects, and it certainly touches values because all over the world, all the time, people are paying money for the kind of beauty I am thus suggesting.

Flower Growing

If then, in this month of Thanksgiving, I can wish an impulse to the people who read Flower Growing and talk about what they read, it is that they plant a little beauty somewhere. 

They better some spot that calls for betterment. Somewhere they create beauty for themselves and others to enjoy. 

I think America owes beauty to herself and the world, and not only the beauty derived from her hikes, hills, valleys, and oceans, in the creation of which we, her people, have had no part.

44659 by J. Horace Mcfarland