Earthworms’ Castings

By Jean Ponzi



I leaned over the hospital bed to touch my best friend Sarah’s hand. Her eyes drooped, heavy-lidded from anesthesia. She gathered her focus, looking at me for a long moment.

Then she smiled and softly said, “You are so beautiful!”

I felt so relieved that she had come through serious surgery, hopeful for her recovery, intent on her well-being – yet my mind dismissed what she said: Wow, they really socked her with drugs.

“You look beautiful too,” I replied, making my voice cheerily encouraging, making it a quick exchange.

I didn’t let Sarah’s message sink in but it stuck with me anyway, remembrance of a missed connection, something important I should’ve seen, felt and heard.

I’m not a touchy-feely person. I come from stock that’s self-contained, stand-offish even. Early on I learned to avoid the rude imposition of personal comments on another person’s self-containment.

It’s shocking to me to hear the kind of personal comments I believe are the norm in other cultural backgrounds: When are you going to lose some weight? You’re lazy! What’s that on your face? That dress is ALL WRONG ON YOU. In my inner values, you might make such observations but you keep them to yourself.

This ethic also keeps a lid on compliments – and segregates them into acceptable and intolerable categories. You look fantastic! would cause acute embarrassment coming from anyone other than a trusted, close associate, but Where did you get that GREAT dress? passes muster because it praises the shopping process rather than personal display. It’s a funny system of thinking.

Sarah is an artist. From her paintbrush, heart, hands and mind flow worlds of beauty – and the occasional quirky zinger that hooks your attention (but never wounds). As Master Scenic Artist for The Muny, she has spun huge visions that transport thousands at a time on magical, tuneful summer nights. On the walls of urban buildings her murals posted big beauty for everyone – which many anybodies helped her create. For a Christmas storybook that distills her life journey into images and words she crafted six beautifully detailed lands through which her Dolly heroine adventures to fulfill her purpose in life. The beauty Sarah constantly perceived was a joy to her – and she deftly let others get in on the fun of cycling beauty through everyday life.

Persistence and heart-to-heart truth are among the best qualities in our friendship. With exuberant kindness and the occasional well-timed poke in the snoot, Sarah has opened my reservations-only mind to enjoy the free-flowing company of compliments. And to see how sincere appreciation can circulate pleasure without any backlash of embarrassment.

Thanks to my beautiful best friend, I find pleasure now in seeing – and commenting on – the everyday beauty of others: Your hairstyle is so snazzy! You look lovely in that flower print. My, you are HANDSOME today.

Surprise! My fellow humans seem to feel real pleasure being beautifully, truly seen.

Jean Ponzi hosts the environmental talk show “Earthworms” live on FM-88 KDHX Mondays 7-8 p.m., and podcast anytime at www.kdhx.org. See some of artist Sarah Linquist’s working commentary on the beauty around her at www.sarahlinquist.com.