It was my first trip to Winnipeg, deep in the heart of the Canadian prairie. Not everyone in Manitoba lives in Winnipeg, of course—several dozen live in other towns (in Manitoba any building with more than two bathrooms is a “town”). I was slated to guest speak at a community college in the historical Mennonite community of Steinbach. A volunteer chauffer named Hempel picked me up at the airport. Hempel nestled my bags between odd bits of farm equipment in the back of his truck, and said, “All set then. Let’s head’r.” He didn’t speak another word.
I was surprised at the dearth of scenery: barely a hill or tree. Not that it lacked variety. To the contrary, there was wheat, corn, barley, oats…
“Does all of Manitoba look like this?” I asked.
“Oh, no!” Farmer Hempel guffawed. “Up north it’s all mountains and forests and waterfalls and such.”
“Ah,” I replied. “So, it’s—”
“Not pretty like here, no!” Farmer Hempel completed my sentence a tad differently than I would have. And then it struck me: to a dirt-for-blood farmer like Hempel, “pretty” meant flat, featureless land—ready to be plowed!
“No stones or trees to remove?” I asked.
“Oh, no such kerfuffle,” he confirmed. And then his eyes moistened as he added, like a man in love, “It’s perfect.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as the saying goes. But it never occurred to me till then that our sense of beauty is determined by what we value.
What do you find beautiful and what does it say about you? Does what you value the most need adjusting?
Or is it indeed “perfect”?