Beautiful like Meiringspoort


By Rosa Duvenhage

“I tell you, if they remain silent, the stones will cry out!” – Luke 19:40

It’s a quarter to five on a Saturday morning. It’s still deep twilight, but the horizon is changing in shades of orange and pink.

This morning everything feels a little strange.

We woke up in the back of our van. I brushed my teeth at an outside faucet and now we are standing in a row on a sidewalk with a thousand other people waiting for an ostrich truck to pick us up.

The atmosphere is electric and there are butterflies in my stomach when we climb the steps and find a place to stand like sardines in a can.

The engine roars and the truck starts moving. Within minutes the landscape changes and we can see Meiringspoort’s cliffs towering high above us.

Just as quickly as we are picked up, we are dropped off again. There is already a large group of runners congregating in the parking area in the middle of Meiringspoort. The music pumps and the butterflies in my stomach get restless.

The crowd swallows us up and before long we are standing with coffee and biscuits in hand. We talk to strangers, bump into old acquaintances and when we clear our eyes it’s time for the start.

The excitement is running high. My butterflies feel more like bats and I quietly wonder what inspired us…

The shot goes off and the mass of people start to move. The first kilometer or two is cramped, but the runners gradually spread out and you can start looking around.

The early morning air is cool. The sun casts its first rays high against the rock walls above us and a soft golden glow fills the gate. The water ripples over the stones and one can smell and taste the richness of the earth in every breath.

All around us it falls silent, all one hears is the footfall of trotters who realize in amazement and humility that they are on holy ground.

Just the night before, we sat next to our bakkie, together with new and old friends, in the pitch black around a campfire. The sky is covered with stars and the glow around the campfire is light. Out of the blue someone asks, what is the most beautiful thing you have seen this week. It gets quiet around the fire and everyone sifts through the thousands of thoughts and experiences of the week, nauseously looking for something beautiful.

In seconds I can rattle off a list of everything that went wrong, of everyone who pissed me off and of the headlines in the newspaper, but my brain has to work to think about the good.

The famous saying goes: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

For one person, a rain shower is a blessing while he sits snugly in his house and drinks a steaming cup of coffee. For someone else, the rain is a frustration that overturns his plans. It’s the same rain at the same moment through different lenses.

The human brain is wired in such a way that it is easier to focus on the negative than the positive. Seeing the beautiful around you and focusing on what is positive takes practice. The first step in this exercise program is to stop, turn on your senses right where you are, and look for the beautiful in the everyday. Yes, you read that right. The everyday.

The overgrown garden under your window teeming with butterflies and bees. The coffee rings on the patio table where you spent last night with your loved ones under the full moon. In the wrinkles around your husband’s eyes and the warmth of your hand in his. In the sweetness of a grape and the wagging of your dog’s tail…

Seeing the beautiful in life breeds gratitude and gratitude opens our eyes to the beautiful. This beautiful relationship between gratitude and beauty is much more than just what the eye sees, it must also be felt with the heart.

Andrew Harvey writes the following about beautiful: “If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders“.

I want to run while my legs can carry me, I want to hear the roar of the sea and smell the earth. I want to wake up in strange places, feel butterflies flutter in my stomach and marvel at the shades of orange in a campfire.

I want to be present in my own life. I want to practice the ability to see the beautiful in life every day and when life turns its dark side towards me and my heart is heavy, I want to look up and look for a speck of light. A promise that my heart will have more capacity for the beautiful in the next season.

For some people, Meiringspoort is just a landmark on the way to the next destination. For me it is holy ground, where I could feel myself breathing in wonder and humility for God together with a thousand friends and strangers.