From the sidewalk, she and her family approach the place where a chestnut brown llama in a tiny top hat and a cream llama in a bow tie stand. The younger girls and woman who walk next to the girl are smiling. The girl in the wheelchair with the fuchsia t-shirt, short moppy brown hair and chin pressed to her chest is not.

Her father comes from behind her chair and firmly, lovingly lifts her face. It looks like her chin may snap right back down.

The brown llama approaches and sniffs the top of the girl’s head. Her eyes far away, she does not move. The white llama comes near and sniffs her palm, which her father has smoothed from clenched to flat. And it’s then that she smiles. Just briefly, corners of her mouth hint at joy.

I learn that the therapy llamas are part of a wedding reception taking place at the restaurant next to the coffee shop where I sit. And though I have no idea why they’ve come for such an occasion, it’s clear they’ve come for the girl in fuchsia and for me, as I have a perfect view of them from this long wooden table where I watch it all like whimsical TV with muted sound.

It is the perfect absurdity of a “Portlandia”-worthy moment with the groups of people pulling out their camera phones and women in short party dresses and high heels approaching exotic furry farm animals; even the lovely bride herself dressed in ivory vintage with large mammals that stand guard behind.

The barista is smiling with wistful eyes and tells me it is her dream to raise alpacas (which are pretty close to llamas, she says) and so this distraction is her bliss. She proudly shows me the picture of her with the llamas, and we joke that with her black top and long black skirt, she looks like she’s attending a black tie event with two dashing escorts.

“I definitely wore the right thing today,” she says still looking at the image where the white one looks nearly ready to kiss her cheek, and I imagine she will print this snapshot from her phone and frame it in gold.

Sometimes beauty is unexpected like this. And it’s furry and long-necked, and it’s not what you thought you’d see when you arrived at work or what you’d write when you finally got the chance.

When you run into the grandma you know from school on your way to that iced latte and tell her you are getting out and finding some time to write, and she asks what you write, and you surprise yourself by saying you write about finding the beauty in everyday moments, you have no idea it will be this one.

You think it might be about the butterfly that danced along the sidewalk next to you, how beauty’s often right beside us. Or about the one-inch square of calm in the middle of chaos. Or about the light on the edges of dark. Or the look on her face as she approaches the horse for a birthday ride.

You might have written about the lost diamond earring found in the same patch of grass searched for hours. The beauty that comes in the form of found treasure and a dad who will not give up. Yes, beauty is sometimes found after the search.

Beauty is mystery, and though we craft and create it and so reveal the echoes of the original Beauty Maker, often it just happens, and it’s nothing to do with us, really.

It’s there, and ours to behold. Or not.

As I type, the woman next to me stands up next to the same window I stare through. She’s quiet for a long time.

I wonder what she’s thinking about the scene.

“So weird,” she finally says and sits back down.

Last weekend, while in Central Oregon, my sister and I talked about our weddings (15 and nearly 11 years ago) as we looked out over a lake kissed by aspen and goose feathers — the glorious setting of many weddings. We talked about what we would do differently if our marriage ceremonies were to happen now, and I remarked that more than anything, I would allow myself the freedom to enjoy unplanned, free and imperfect moments.

So caught up was I in making just so and meaningful and lovely that I forgot (or didn’t yet know) that so much falls unexpectedly among recesses of organza, tulips and tule. That much beauty happens right in the midst of things that don’t go as planned.

Much life, I’m learning, is about finding the diamond among the blades, about opening eyes up enough to notice, really, for this life is hardly ever all one thing or another.

Nearly every day there’s the hints of her smile and the joy of a papa holding up a chin, holding out a hand to make it happen.

And there’s the barista’s far off dream and the llama fur and the glimmering wing.

And the unplanned jig with your new husband as your poorly-tied train falls sloppily around you. When you let loose and let it fall, ah, there it is.


I’ve been thinking lots of beauty thoughts these last weeks, though I haven’t had much time to write them. When June roses hit their prime here a few weeks ago, I handed over the iPhone and had my three girls snap shots of what they deemed beautiful, as I’ve done a few other times in “Through the eyes of my children.” I have been trying to get around to posting their views on lovely and will do that this week. And then last Friday, Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday prompt was BEAUTIFUL. And then I stole away to write for a little while about beauty and then….llamas. Really, you do just never know. So happy to be back with you today.

Linking this morning with The Extraordinary Ordinary and Just Write.

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