Beauty: Seven Women Speak by Jerri Blair

The guardian stood at the gate and asked, “What is beauty?” When no one answered, he glanced at the faces around him and saw a range of responses from surprise to annoyance. He added, “I’m serious. You’re going to have to answer to gain entry.” The responses came slowly as if the speakers were unsure of where they were and what they were doing. Finally a voice began.

Marilyn spoke.

  “Beauty … that word scares me to my core. I want it so much. I need it so much. It’s here today but … for how long? I see it disappearing from my face as the great artist, Age, uses my body like a canvas to paint abstract tales of life in the world. The supreme artiste carves wrinkles there beside my eyes and loosens the muscles that make my neck so perfect, so like a delicate swan. I feel gravity wrestling with me to remake the shape of my body. How can a thing be beautiful and then lose all semblance of beauty? What is the value of beauty if it can fade away? Is beauty really only skin-deep? Is this all there is?”

Ajei answered.

  “Beauty is everywhere … connected to every element around you, beating with the pulse of life. Those are my mother’s words. She named me for her heart, the best part of herself. She thought I would take her essence out beyond the Navajo Nation and share our ways with the world. The Navajo Blessing Way speaks our greatest truth: In beauty I walk; with beauty before me, I walk; with beauty behind me, I walk; with beauty around me, I walk. We see the beauty in all things; in the wrinkles of an old human’s face, in approaching clouds and falling rain, in the sky above and the Earth around us. Beauty truly is a never-ending stream of life on the planet.”

Frida opined.

 “Is beauty truth? I’ve often posed that question to myself. Beauty is such a tricky thing. What is beautiful to me might not be beautiful to you, but profound truth is always at least attention-catching to almost any thinking person. I try to capture truth in all of its sometimes ugly beauty when I paint. I tread lightly behind the pantheon of artistic gods that came before me, each giving the essence of beauty to the world … Pablo’s expression of the abstract truth, Vincent’s pictures of trembling passion in everyday settings, Caravaggio’s portraits of violence intersecting with life, and on and on and on … the purest form of beauty comes from the artistic soul and represents some kind of truth about freedom in the world softened to contours that please the heart and the eyes.”

Catherine orated.

 “Beauty is derived from freedom, the freedom that comes with raw power, the essence that rules the world. Power runs like a jolt of electricity through all that it touches, lifting those who enjoy it up above all others to a pinnacle from which they may see the world in its most wondrous form. What could be more beautiful than a voice that can send armies to the battlefield with a word, or a signature that can send a person to the gallows, or save millions by feeding the hungry, or fund the most beautiful artistic creation ever made? Power is the essence of beauty. If you have power, you remain always within the arms of the most beautiful lover the world has ever known … even though the chains of others’ expectations are there, too, trying to drag you down from the pinnacle that gives beauty meaning.”

Helen announced.

 “Pay no attention to my name or the expectations of beauty in its purest form that it carries. The beautiful are chained to perfection by others’ needs. The tiniest imperfection becomes a topic of conversation and reason for secret glee. To me, real beauty is much more than a face. Perfect beauty is found in the strength to carve out your own position in the world. Achilles’s terrible strength was so much more beautiful than the soft curls of my beloved Paris whose fate allowed him to take down the most beautiful man in the world. No one ever knew that I felt that way, but it is true and truth is beauty in its highest form.”

Georgia rambled.

 “Beauty is a state of mind. It takes time to realize its essence. It stares at us from the hearts of flowers and the bones of a mountain ridge. Its language is written in the colors and shapes of the natural world around us. Beauty is realized when we learn to really see that world. It can come to us from the most odd and unexpected places, from a misplaced can or a rolling tumbleweed, or the tiniest flower after a desert rain.”

Mileva whispered.

 “Beauty is a sequence of numbers that brings a new understanding to a mathematical problem. It is a new discovery in the first seconds that it becomes apparent to you. It’s the mystical reality that exists all around us at the atomic level. I worship beauty in its essential form … but it can also be a bundle of lavender that imparts its scent as it’s handed to you by someone you love. It’s all relative.”

The guardian asked, “Why are you here?”

Out of the silence, Ajei narrated. 

 “I don’t know. I was on a bus headed for … a new life. I was on the front seat watching the road as it ran toward us, day dreaming of the things I would be doing. I saw a truck cross the line and felt its impact. That’s all I know.”

Catherine stated.

  “The rest of us have been here for a very long time. We’re waiting and we don’t know for what. It’s not a sensation I enjoy.”

Marilyn questioned.

“What happens next?”

 “I think you’ll find it well worth the wait. I’ve been walking the perimeter, checking the length of the wall. It took me a while to make it back to this gate, but it’s a portal that receives only a few callers.”

Mileva mused.

 “Why is there a wall? Why so few entries through this portal?”

  “I’m not sure why there’s a wall. It wasn’t built by anyone on this side. I think it was built by people with doubts about themselves and their world. Its bricks and blocks reek of anger, hatred, and fear of the unknown. It’s laughable.”

Marilyn quivered.

 “What did they fear? What’s over there that’s so scary?”

  The guardian laughed. “That’s what’s so funny. The people who constructed this wall were afraid of what they professed to want. This is what you on that side of the wall call heaven. It is light and freedom magnified and intensified to the greatest degree. It is truth. It is beauty in its essential form.”

Marilyn frowned.

“Then … it’s a safe place to be … so there’s no need for a wall.”

“Beauty is never safe. Those who choose safety above freedom will not find any entryway to this side of heaven until they come to understand their mistaken beliefs and open their hearts to life. But that would be true even if the wall didn’t exist. The wall is immaterial. The entryways could open through any portion of the wall if the mindset were right.”

Georgia demanded.

“But if this is an entry to beauty, why do so few come through this portal?”

  “Ah … there are many paths and countless portals. This is a gateway that has had only a few passengers in the past because it seemed to open only for an elite few.”

 Helen quizzed.

 “So we are the elite? Why, what is it about us that makes us different?”

 “You are women.”

Catherine snapped.

“That’s a statement of the obvious. Clearly, some of us have lived elite lives on Earth, but not all. What is it that ties us together?”

 “You are women that the men who ruled the world considered to have some worth during life. Their admiration tied you together and brought you here.”

Frida raged.

 “Of course all of us had great impact … except perhaps Ajei who was on a path to have such impact. But there are so many more women who strongly impacted the world. What about them?”

“Some have passed this way, but only a few. So many women were shoved into the background or deprived of recognition for their accomplishments. They didn’t have a chance to walk through this portal. Now all of you can leave the stings of the past behind.”

 Ajei smiled.

 “I won’t pass through this portal until it is open to all women, to every person who has ever had a door slammed in their face because they were perceived as something lesser. That’s just the way I feel.”

Marilyn nodded.

“Me too.”

 Frida trumpeted.

Me too.”

 Catherine sighed.

Me too.”

 Helen signaled.

Me too.”

Georgia vocalized.

Me too.” 

Mileva shouted.

Me too.”

The guardian smiled. “Now that’s beautiful.”

During her thirty year career as a trial and appellate attorney, award winning author Jerri Blair litigated many high profiles cases that made headlines around the world. Her books reflect the reality of courtroom tactics and the intricacy of legal procedure, as well as her life experiences growing up in the segregated South and her fight for justice in the judicial system. Ms. Blair’s first novel, Justice for the Black Knight, received critical acclaim from Kirkus Reviews and other literary publications. It was awarded the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Legal Thriller. She has published five other books including three novels, a book of short stories, and a sports memoir.  One of her short stories was published in the Scarlet Leaf Review. She has also been published in the ABA Journal. She focuses her writing on issues that impact the search for justice and equal opportunity in the modern world.

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