Years ago in Colorado, I meandered through an iron foundry with a friend. Out of the rubble, he grabbed an old iron wheel. The spokes radiated from the hub in a most unusual way, curvy and intricate like S’s rather than L’s. It clearly took the blacksmith much longer to build it that way than with straight spokes.
“Do you know why it’s like that,” my friend, an engineer and blacksmith, asked.
“Because it’s beautiful,” he said. “There is no other reason.”
Enjoying a little jet lag tonight, I’m sitting in our apartment in Nice, France with the gallerie windows open to the Port du Nice. Sailboats bob gently in their slips next to three-story yachts with navy blue hulls and tan, young men swabbing their already spotless decks.
Although it is dark, I can see all this because the port is ringed by street lights shaped like lanterns. But evidently, that’s not lovely enough, because they lamps don’t just shimmer on the water, every now and again they flicker, flash and change color. At the moment, they are green. Soon they will turn purple.
Do you know why they do that?
Because it is beautiful. There is no other reason.
Consider French architecture, art, fashion and food. The French cultivate beauty and finery for the sake of itself, which is perhaps the reason France is the most visited nation on earth. The United States is second and we have the Grand Canyon.
In addition, Nice Port and the Old Town are separated by a large tree covered hill, rising 300 feet above the Mediterranean. Until 1705 there was a castle there, but now it is a city park, a picnic spot with Roman ruins and long views over the turquoise and cobalt sea.
The park closes at night but all along the hillside the trees are awash with careful, deliberate landscape lighting, which also shimmers off the water in the Port below.
How delightfully unnecessary all this is, but at nearly 2am on a jet lag night, I’m reminded we are all capable of magic, and creating something that makes people linger and sigh requires no explanation.
Because it’s beautiful, is reason enough.