Granny’s Bonnet

I refer to its alternate for the other conjures, for me at least, unhappiness.
It was along the road. Look, she said, for it will not last.
What a beautiful thing.
I wonder why?
Not for you and me. For nature was here long before us and not even it may claim prescience.
Its color? No, for things considered otherwise may approximate.
Its shape? No, by the same logic.
Smell? I cannot tell.
Taste? I would not try.
Beauty is, in our eyes and mind.
A side consequence of interactions among and between the countless.
Neurons serving other purposes.

17 thoughts on “Granny’s Bonnet

  1. Not sure if you are familiar with the Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa (an absolutely fascinating writer, if you have not read his works). I have been rereading his poems and came across this one (written under his heteronym “Alberto Caeiro”) and it made me think of your post. 🙂


    Sometimes, on days of perfect and exact light,
    When things are as real as they can possibly be,
    I slowly ask myself
    Why I even bother to attribute
    Beauty to things.

    Does a flower really have beauty?
    Does a fruit really have beauty?
    No: they have only color and form
    And existence.
    Beauty is the name of something that doesn’t exist
    But that I give to things in exchange for the pleasure they
    give me.
    It means nothing.
    So why do I say about things: they’re beautiful?

    Yes, even I, who live only off living,
    Am unwittingly visited by the lies of men
    Concerning things,
    Concerning things that simply exist.

    How hard to be just what we are and see nothing but the

    11 March 1914

    (From “The Keeper of the Sheep” in _A Little Larger Than the Universe: Selected Poems_, Translated by Richard Zenith, p. 29)

    • Yes. Fernando and I certainly are ‘on the same page.’ Thanks for thinking of me and for taking the time to pass this along. We see things as beautiful. We are somehow wired to do so. I cannot say why. I can’t think why, in our ancient past, it was useful to be able to see things in this way. Perhaps it was simply a side-consequence of something else that had been happening in the development of our sensory system? We’ll never know.

  2. Always learning new things from reading your blog – like CSA (in another recent post) and now this flower! I have not recognized it although it should grow all over the Northern hemisphere. But googling and translating to Latin and to German I learned that actually another member of the same family of flowers (Ranunculaceae) is growing in our garden – that one is called yellow Chicken’s Claw when translated literally from German, just as the Latin name of your Aquilegia stems from resemblance with an eagle’s claw.

  3. Lovely image, David. I have never thought of or heard this described as “Granny’s Bonnet” but the suggestion makes a new visual in my head.

    As you know, I am quite in agreement that the beauty is in our own imagination. While you, Joanna and I and along with so many others recognize a beauty in flowers and the red columbine in particular, others may just walk on by with nothing more than a slight awareness that there is a flower there. It is all personal perception and the flower does not exist for our appreciation, but for the furthering of its own existence and the generations to follow. For a variety of reasons, this flower exists while many others have come and gone, never to grace our vision again.

    For me, appreciation is what matters. I read the comments between you and Linda and can relate to both although my perception leans more towards yours. But whichever direction we come from, our recognition of beauty is what counts. The flower “cares” not whether we understand it, whether or not we love it, it only “cares” about its future progeny.

  4. We saw this up in Ogunquit! I described it as a trumpet to June! Did not know its true name! So lovely. Gorgeous color. I have been spending many hours in the yard weeding and mulching. It is an oasis for me. Surrounded by lush greenery and quiet. The smells of the peonies in the air. Beauty for sure.

  5. Oh such fragility you have captured here. And the question of neuroaesthestics so fascinating and wonderfully composed. Lovely light and bokeh for this ephemeral gathering of delicate “doves.”

  6. When I first read this, it seemed impenetrable. Then, another few reads brought some sense to it, and a vague sense of disquiet. Beauty only “A side consequence of interactions among and between the countless neurons serving other purposes”? That, I don’t believe.

    On the other hand, you’ve reminded me there’s always something that’s been called “a surplus of meaning” where poetry’s involved. I’ve used the phrase myself, and believe it’s true: no writer can fully control, or fully predict, how words will be understood. There’s always a bit of meaning that escapes control.

    Perhaps that’s where your understanding and mine could meet: in understanding beauty as nature’s “surplus of meaning.”

    • I see, from this and from other impressions you have expressed, that our opinions differ with regard to first principles. Discourse is good. Considering the alternatives (on both sides) is good. Thanks for expressing your sense of disquiet, here, and your feeling of [vague discomfort] in response to another recent post. Thank you also for distilling, so well, the essence of such differences by pointing out that there is surplus of meaning when one tries to understand beauty.

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