All that Glitters 

Sometimes beauty really is skin deep.
Not only that but deceptive too. We give much credit to the beautiful at the expense of the deep. Just recently I have been working on a series of pen and ink drawings based on toxic tropical flowers. These delicate, colourful and incredibly beautiful plants are deadly to man and beast. The plant in the picture is called a Rosary Pea and the hard seeds have been used for centuries to make beaded necklaces and bracelets. There are stories of jewellers who have died after working with the seeds which kind of begs the question ‘why’.

We are entranced and bewitched by physical beauty and become blind to what is real or dangerous. Nature is excellent at this deception, lulling us into dangerous decisions; we pick the pretty flower and are amazed by the allergic reaction that follows. Gold leaf hides the splintered wood beneath the icon, sunshine yellow attracts the bee and lies about the vomiting its sap induces. I quite like the duplicitousness of beauty but I also like the peeling away of the falsehood that exposes the layers of banality. Many women and men waste their lives stressing over their looks. “Am I too fat?” “Does my bum look big in this?” I look at photos of myself from 20 or 30 years ago and with a hitch I remember that I thought I was ugly, fat, old and yet there I was gloriously young and wasting that youth with false worries and concerns.

I spent too many of my precious thoughts on those pointless desires. Thought and time which should have been spent making the best life possible. Doing what I wanted to do instead of trying to gain affirmation from people who meant nothing to me. Age brings wisdom (unfortunately it also brings wrinkles, aching joints and flatulence) and certain invisibility which at first is confusing but soon becomes liberating. I no longer care what anyone thinks of the way I look. I swim and walk to stay healthy, not slim (that tanker sank a long time ago) I eat salad because I like salad but I also eat bread and pasta and I drink, not to excess but to get drunk. The surface is rumpled but underneath I am smooth. Underneath I am beautiful.  

I paint and write and I paint and write what I want to paint and write (and I am very partial to long ungrammatical sentences). Real beauty is more than skin deep. A beautiful smile in a wrinkled face denoting a wicked sense of humour. A twinkle in the eye that is the prelude to a most wonderful dialogue. We look beyond the surface and discover treasure. Not to look further puts us in danger of a toxic reaction. Belladonna has pretty pink flowers but I wouldn’t want them in my house. 

So clear away the toxic flowers from your lives no matter how pretty or colourful and dance to your own soundtrack and enjoy being you. 

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