Around noon today, the weather was so pleasant that Don and I went to the coffee shop to fearlessly engage ourselves in an hour of wanton girl watching.
At least, I myself engaged in an hour of wanton girl watching. Don, on the other hand, completely forsook wanton girl watching, and instead, buried himself in reading the local newspaper.
I dearly love Don, but sometimes his behavior cannot be reduced to reason. Why anyone would read a newspaper when there are women to be watched is a mystery that quite obviously lies beyond the powers of the human mind to fathom.
After I got over the shock that slapped me when Don unfolded the Gazette on our sidewalk table, I noticed the sun was warming my back — warming it just enough to make my back slightly uncomfortable and to make the occasional breeze entirely delightful. Women passed by — many of them doing their own watching — and so I settled into my chair, sipping coffee, and feeling almost blissful under a blue sky.
As everyone knows, the best time of day for watching people is usually not around noon — when the sun is bright enough to wash out details, textures, and colors — but either in the early morning or the early evening. The quality of light at those two times of day is universally recognized as ideal for photography, painting, and people watching. For one thing, it tends to make our skin glow as if from within.
In this strange world, it’s true some people are prettier or more handsome than others. Nevertheless, almost everyone is beautiful, regardless of whether or not they are pretty or handsome. But I think it’s much easier to say that sort of thing than it is to see it.
It seems that to see it, it helps to either have the innocent eyes of a child, or the trained eyes of an artist. When I took up sketching people again — after a hiatus of more than two decades — I discovered after a while that people seemed more beautiful than before. Of course, people hadn’t changed, but the practice at sketching them had disciplined my eyes to see people without as many preconceptions; perhaps to see them as if for the first time. And that experience has led me to believe it is the preconceptions we have of people — and not people as they actually are — that so often prevents us from seeing the beauty present in nearly everyone.
Nowadays when I watch people, I sometimes notice the poses they would make if they were suddenly frozen in place. Say, by a camera. And it seems to me remarkable how graceful are the lines of our bodies. Once I saw an old, lean homeless man at a bus station. He stood for quite some time in a single pose, staring off and up into the distance. I studied him for several minutes. His pose was too graceful for me to take my eyes off him.
At some point today, Don looked up from his paper to say, “Beautiful Colorado!” For a moment, I thought he had come to his senses and was now girl watching. But it turned out he was just commenting on the weather. Some people are beyond comprehension.