A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Summary: A-Z of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

Thank you for joining me on my A-Z journey for 2021. I have had a lot of fun sharing things I truly appreciate in my life and hope you have too!

Below I have summarised all the posts for ease of reference should you wish to revisit them.

A is for Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

B is for Brindabella Ranges

C is for Cooperation

D is for Daybreak

E is for Evening

F is for Frost

G is for Garden

H is for Holidays

I is for Imagery

J is for Juxtaposition

K is for Kookaburra

L is for Leaves

M is for Music

N is for Numbers

O is for Olfactory

P is for Pets

Q is for Quartz

R is for Rainbows

S is for Shadows

T is for Teamwork

U is for Utterance

V is for Values

W is for Webs

X is for eXcellence

Y is for Yes

Z is for Zen

🙌🏻

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Z is for Zen

Enlightenment and the idea of “Zen” are interrelated. The essence of Zen is that all human beings are Buddha, and that all they have to do is to discover that truth for themselves.

Zen is to be completely alive. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy. Whichever the term; it simply doesn’t matter.

Zen tries to free the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic. Zen is meditation.

Zen is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.

And this is both beautiful and excellent.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Y is for Yes

With life becoming more and more busy, I sometimes hear people talking about how they’re going to say “no” more often. There are so many things we are asked to be involved in: volunteering, events, fundraisers, running errands, giving, giving, giving…all while trying to make time for yourself in amongst it all too!

Don’t get me wrong, saying “no” is important. Because when we say “no”, we are then able to say “yes“ to the right people. And there is beauty in this. Your “yes” moments will look differently depending on the your own lives and personal situations but I challenge you to say “yes.”

Not for everything, because you don’t want to burn yourself out. But make a goal for yourself whether it’s one “yes” a week or one “yes” a day, to those who matter to you. They will be forever thankful.

Be present, be intentional. Say “no”, so you can “yes.”

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

X is for eXcellence

I am always big on acknowledging those with particular skills or talents. Observing and appreciating those who excel at something is often energising, and makes me want to pursue my own goals.

It also produces admiration, which is a beautiful emotion – to feel positive, warm regard for someone else. Admiration could manifest while watching and listening to a virtuoso musician, reading about a great scientist, politician, or invention, the way a writer tells their story or a filmmaker weaves the components of a great movie together.

It can also manifest through the actions or manner in which a person lives their lives. If there is someone excelling in your life, let them know you admire what they do.

And me? How do I strive to achieve excellence? To put it into simple words, do the right thing. Excellence is the result of caring about what we do, and of putting our very best effort into what we care about. It is an outward expression of inner integrity, passion and a strong sense to make a true difference.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

W is for Webs

A spiderweb sparkling in the sunlight can be a truly beautiful sight, but webs have additional surprises. The strength-to-weight ratio of the material is remarkable, and spiders seem to be able to rig a web just about anywhere.

Some webs are extremely intricate. Most people assume that the design is purely functional, but this is not always the case. Many spiders actually replace their entire web every single day!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

V is for Values

For many, values are misinterpreted as ethics or morals. The true definition of value is: a set of standards that we want to live our lives by based on what is most important to us.

This means living our lives based on the things that are most important to us in life, therefore, giving us purpose! A strategy I read about to discover our values is as follows: Identify 10 or more values that reflect our core values and then narrow them down to 5.

Understanding what what is most important to us is the very essence of appreciating beauty in our lives.

For me, I love:

  1. Spending time in nature because it grounds me (well-being)
  2. Talking and being with others because it makes me feel connected (connection)
  3. African drumming because I can play music with others (creativity)
  4. Walking my dogs because it makes them happy (sense of purpose)
  5. Being with my husband because he is my soul mate (connection)
  6. Dragon boating because my body can be powerful and strong (well-being)
  7. Teaching because I feel like I make a difference (sense of purpose)
  8. Exploring new places because I am curious and interested (knowledge)
  9. History because we can learn from our past (knowledge)
  10. Writing because I can explore my creativity (creativity)

Narrowing these down, I can clearly see my core values are:

Well-being, Connection, Sense of purpose, Knowledge, Creativity

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

U is for Utterance

Beautifully said vs. beautiful utterance.

Usually, the tone of the word “utterance” doesn’t fit “beautiful” well. An utterance (in the sense of something that someone says) is short, abrupt, and functional rather than beautiful,

But sometimes there are exceptions…

You. Not wanting me was the beginning of me wanting myself. Thank you.

Kind people are my kinder people.

We read to know we are not alone.

We are clever but we’re clueless.

Happiness is a choice.

It hurts to let go, but more to hold on.

Don’t be like the rest of them.

Let it go. This too shall pass.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

T is for Teamwork

Before we get to the teamwork part, a little bit of background is required.

Similar to the use of outrigger canoes, dragon boat racing has a rich background of ancient ceremonial, ritualistic and religious traditions.

Thought to have originated in southern central China more than 2500 years ago, dragon boat racing has been practiced continuously since this period as the basis for annual water rituals and festival celebrations, and for the traditional veneration of the Chinese dragon water deity.

Of the twelve animals which make up the traditional Chinese zodiac, only the Dragon is a mythical creature. Dragons were traditionally believed to be the rulers of water: rivers, lakes, and seas. They were also thought to dominate the waters of the heavens: clouds, mists, and rains.

Dragon boat racing venerates the dragon deity and is meant to avert misfortune and encourage rainfall.

The crew of a standard dragon boat consists of 22 team members:
– 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow
– 1 drummer
– 1 sweep standing at the rear

Dragon boats, however, do vary in length and the crew size changes accordingly, from small dragon boats with only 10 paddlers up to traditional boats which have upwards of 50 paddlers.

Races are typically a sprint event of several hundred meters, with 500 metres being the most common. Races measuring 200, 1000, and 2000 metres are also standard distances in international competition.

The true beauty of paddling a dragon boat comes from teamwork – immersing yourself in this amazing culture of community, commitment and determination! There is something spiritual about the synchronicity of the crew and being focused on a common goal.

It’s not the fittest or strongest team that succeeds on the water – it’s the team that works as a single force.

I love my Invictus dragon boat family and am so proud of how far we’ve come in just our first 12 months of competition.

Fate, Soul, Invictus!

We paddle as one”

Hopefully we get to this level one day…

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

S is for Shadows

“Everything, as you well know . . . cannot always be sweetness and light.” – The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

There is beauty in the darkness.

For example, consider how shadows are formed. Shadows are made by blocking the light. Light rays travel from a source in straight lines. If an opaque (solid) object gets in the way, it stops light rays from traveling through it. This results in an area of darkness appearing behind the object.

While this may seem counterintuitive to beauty, there truly IS something winsome to be found in shadows – for only by ignoring the light can we have the elegance, anonymity and secrecy of the black that hides, or shields our deepest selves. Thus allowing us to appreciate all that is good.

Look again…

Things aren’t always what they seem

“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“If you don’t have any shadows you’re not in the light.” – Lady Gaga

“Fancies are like shadows…you can’t cage them, they’re such wayward, dancing things.” – L.M. Montgomery

“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.” – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

I especially love this article from The Ascent, “Five Life Lessons You Can Learn From Your Shadow“.

To paraphrase:

1. Who I truly am can never be destroyed — my shadow is indestructible. I’m indestructible. My physical body’s not indestructible, but “I” am.

2. There is no limit to my growth — at the right angle with the right light, my shadow can span so far and wide, standing strong…no matter what.

3. Our mistakes in life don’t define who we are — the shadow itself can do no wrong. Even if I do something that ‘bad’, the shadow itself remains pure.

4. I am 100% unique — my shadow is mine and mine only! It is unique to me.

5. In life, there will be clouds that hide the best in us from our own eyes and the eyes of others — it’s important that we remember that just as the shadow didn’t disappear, the darkness of life doesn’t remove the good that is in us.

In my mind, these 5 lessons, are exceptionally beautiful and well worth appreciating!

Works inspired by shadows:

Shadows

In The Shadows

Hugging Shadows

. Mother of Dragons

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Q is for Quartz

The processes resulting in the formation of tors started millions and millions of years ago. Simply speaking, tors are the result of granite cooling and solidifying from molten rock.

Granite is formed from three main minerals: Quartz – appearing in the granite as greyish-looking grains; Feldspar – white grains, sometimes stained yellowish or pink; and Biotite – dark brown glistening flakes.

Tors are awesome. In sitting perfectly still, holding their space on this earth, their solidity and monolithic nature ensure they are simultaneously imposing and majestic. I love the vibrations that run through these rocks. They seem to hold the energies of times gone by; bearing witness to events – enduring the past, present and future. There is something beautiful in this feeling of insignificance and fragility; reminding me I am here for a mere blip in time.

Three areas where I have spent significant time with tors are Mt Buffalo National Park, Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site and Namadgi National Park.

Mt Buffalo National Park
Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site

Square Rock, Namadgi National Park

Square Rock, Namadgi National Park

Square Rock, Namadgi National Park
A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

P is for Pets

The unconditional love of a pet is beautiful.

They show you affection, give you a sense of purpose, and greet you every day when you come home (well, maybe not if you have a cat).

There’s a lot of beautiful sayings and quotes out there about the rare kind of magic pets bring to our lives.

These people say it better than I ever could…

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” James Herriot, British Writer

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Roger Caras, American Activist

“If I could be half the person my dog is, I’d be twice the human I am.” Charles Yu, Taiwanese-American Author

 “Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?” Jerry Seinfeld

“Bliss is the result of a silent conversation between me and my dog.” Unknown

And now, shameless puppy spam! Here are some beautiful pictures of my beautiful dogs…

Work inspired bu Archie and Bella:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

O is for Olfactory

olfactory (adj.) relating to the sense of smell

I recently stumbled across this old journal article and was intrigued by the sentiment and questions posed within:

Source: Coleman, Francis J. “Can a Smell or a Taste or a Touch Be Beautiful?” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 4, 1965, pp. 319–324. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20009182. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

For me, I certainly disagree with these aestheticians. There IS beauty in touch, and taste, and smell. I was startled to learn this was not a common view point.

For the purposes of my post (which is focusing on “O”) I wish to explore the beauty of the olfactory.

Undeniably, there is comfort, contentment and excitement in smell. Are these things, not things of beauty?

Take:

– A freshly brewed cup of coffee, tantalising our sense of smell, providing anticipation to jumpstart our day?

– The tangy salty stinging in our nostrils as we inhale the beach on a windy day, reminding us that we are alive and in the presence of awesome nature?

– The scent of eucalyptus trees and scrubby bushes after the rain, symbolising the new growth and nourishment of life

OR

– The smell of nanna’s perfume lingering on a blanket she crocheted, bringing her into my presence, even though she’s long gone?

These things are beautiful. But most importantly, they are precious. And I will shamelessly declare the beauty of smell, to anyone who will listen…especially at the dinner table!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

N is for Numbers

Mathematicians and non-mathematicians can surely agree, there is beauty in mathematics.

Not just the simple gratification that can be felt from balancing an equation, or solving a multi step problem. Beauty is more than skin deep when it comes to numbers.

Beauty can be found in the harmony, patterns, and structures of numbers and forms – providing the classic ideals of balance and symmetry.

The non-mathematician often appreciates the beauty of mathematics without even realising it.

For example:

  • feeling a sense of awe while admiring a flower or a tree
  • feeling attracted to a certain piece of art
  • favouring a specific type of architecture

The beauty that attracts your eye is made possible by, and can be explained by mathematics.

There are three elements of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. The perfect balance of these elements created the “Golden Mean” (otherwise known as the golden ratio). The Golden Mean can be found (literally) everywhere in our world!

Look out for it…and enjoy!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

M is for Music

Where in the world would we be without music? Somewhere I’d rather not be, that’s for certain!

There is no question that music stimulates the mind. There are many beautiful aspects to music, which one can listen to and focus our attention on music, we can be mindful of melodies or themes, harmonies, rhythms, the tapestry of sounds, “activity” within a piece, or how they all relate to one another, all while, figuring out how the composer conceived the piece in the first place!

Focused and attentive listening is an incredible experience that allows one to become lost in a foreign world of sound. Music can raise someone’s mood, get them excited, or make them calm and relaxed. Music also – and this is important – allows us to feel nearly or possibly all emotions that we experience in our lives. And this is truly beautiful.

In just 12 different notes, we can play any kind of music. I find it extraordinary that all songs can be created from this small range, with seemingly infinite combinations.

Here are some pieces of music I truly appreciate. They touch my soul in a profound way…even though each is very different to the next.

(Of course, lyrics also play an important role in this too, adding yet another dimension – truly the most perfect accompaniment…but that’s for another post!)

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

L is for Leaves

It is Autumn here in Australia. Needless to say, one of the most beautiful times because of the changing leaves.

Canberra’s deciduous trees transform our city into a tapestry of colour as their leaves change to display vivid reds, purples, oranges and yellows.

So what causes the beautiful displays of autumnal colour? The usual green colour of Spring and Summer leaves is the result of chlorophyll – the chemical that enables the plant to photosynthesise and produce the energy it needs to grow.

In Autumn, the tree starts to break down the chlorophyll and stores it to have on hand as extra energy when Spring comes.

This means that the green pigment in the leaf is no longer dominant and other colours start to show through.

This process in itself is incredible and a true wonder – beauty on a whole other level.

And of course, it makes for awesome Autumn photography and inspiration for songs and poems…

Some of my own work:

A classic song Autumn Leaves, as performed by Eva Cassidy:

Lyrics/Song by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert and Johnny Mercer, 1945

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

K is for Kookaburra

Kookaburras are a well-known symbol of Australia, sometimes referred to as a laughing larrikin. They are bold, and fearless, carnivorous birds. Although classified as a kingfisher, they prey upon snakes, small reptiles and small mammals, They are not at all scared of humans and have been known to snatch a sausage off the BBQ or straight from your hands!

In Ngunnawal language (the traditional land owners of the ACT region), the word for Kookaburra is “guginya”.

According to one Indigenous Dreaming, the Great Spirit Biami created the first Kookaburra to call out when the sun rose each morning to awaken the people and daytime creatures.  He did this with a loud, ringing laugh so the people and creatures awoke with gladness in their hearts,

Another Dreaming states that before the world had the sun, Emu and Brush Turkey continuously fought. Brush Turkey threw Emu’s egg into the sky and it landed in one of the campfires of the star people. The resulting light was so glorious, the people begged the star people to keep it going. They needed someone to waken them each morning to start the fire of the Sun, so Kookaburra with his loud laugh got the job. He does it daily with joy.

One important thing to note about Kookaburra is that he must NEVER be mocked. It is absolute Law. Although this fellow appears to be bursting with self-confidence, he is indeed a sensitive soul. Any teasing will result in hurting Kookaburra’s feelings so deeply, he won’t waken the star people. Imagine living without the sun!

Source: Native symbols

From an Appreciation of Beauty standpoint, I always take note of Kookaburras. I laugh and smile with them, enjoying the moment. It is due to Kookaburra’s ability to sing out, and be loud after all, that he has the important job of awakening humanity.

As a spiritual totem, some believe the Kookaburra highlights work issues and family relationships.  Enthusiasm, happiness, promotion, and success are all symbolised by Kookaburra.

I simply adore Kookaburras – their spunk, character and cheerful call never cease to bring a smile to my face and joy to my soul. I always heed whatever message I am meant to be receiving from this wise old bird.

Listen to a pair of Kookaburras calling here:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

J is for Juxtaposition

juxtaposition (n.) the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect

There is beauty in contrast. The spaces in between and the bits that join the ideas together.

Sometimes there’s humour; sometimes irony. Always something special and wonderful between the two.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

I is for Imagery

I have always thought words are beautiful. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I have long been an avid reader, and why I feel inspired to write.

I am in awe of those who are able to convey beauty through the use of word-smithery; especially the use of figurative language.

My heart aches with appreciation when I read a well crafted piece of prose, a piece of imagery or when someone is able to put into words, something that I cannot.

For today’s post I want to share some of my favourite pieces with you…

“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, dont you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
– J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
– Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman.”- Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

“She tried to find the place in her heart where her life was anchored, but she couldn’t, so she closed her eyes and pressed the palms of her hands against the earth, making sure it was there.”
– Pam Munoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

“Our mother had a dark heart feeling. It was as big as a sky inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places.”
– Karen Foxlee, Lenny’s Book of Everything

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
– Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

H is for Holidays

Spending time in nature can improve your brain function, reduce stress, keep you fit, and help you appreciate land and wildlife. This is why I generally choose nature holidays for my vacations.

My favourite nature destination to holiday is Scotts Head, NSW. Since I was born, it has been my family’s special place; one I feel spiritually and emotionally connected to.

As soon as I start walking on the sand, eluding the foamy edges of the waves as the surf slides toward shore, I feel a peace wash over me. It is as if the sea rhythmically rinses away any tension. The sand-hills and sweeping length of the beach mean I can focus on nothing but this slice of the natural world, and the white sand underfoot.

Occasionally I will spy a soaring osprey, or a crackle of yellow-cheeked black cockatoos. I love to forage amongst the debris that has washed up on shore – collecting shells, bits of coral, cuttlefish and interesting rocks or sticks.

My annual holidays really encapsulate the perfect opportunity to embrace the beauty and excellence of our natural world.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

G is for Garden

Beautiful gardens appeal to our minds and senses – the colours, immense diversity of designs, fragrances, flavours, sounds from birds and insects, and the variety of textures. These all awaken something basal within us.

Although, by no means, do I possess a green thumb, I hold a deep appreciation for the sanctuary of gardens.

I like nothing more than going for a walk or drive around my neighbourhood and taking notice of the beautifully crafted gardens others have created.

Or, if I’m visiting a friend’s, I am always observant and tune in to what they’ve done with their plants.

Fortunately here in Canberra we have gardens, reserves and parks aplenty, and I cherish my time exploring our natural wonderland.

And I celebrate each small success in my own backyard, experiencing joy from seeing a carefully tended bud, reach its bloom.

“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.”  Richard Briers

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

F is for Frost

Unlike many Australians, Winter is my favourite season. For me, there is nothing more spectacular than the clarity of the blue skies and the sharp edge the cool crisp air gives the environment. And of, course, there’s the frost.

Frost is a thin layer of ice on a solid surface, which forms from water vapor in an above-freezing atmosphere coming in contact with a solid surface whose temperature is below freezing. This results in a phase change from water vapor (gas) to ice (solid).

Aside from the amazing science behind this phenomenon, it is also very beautiful. The white shards cloaking individual blades of grass or leaves, collectively form a shimmering, sparkling, winter-scape; capturing the softened golden rays of the sun – reminding us there is a different kind of warmth to appreciate, amidst the cold.

Read more of my appreciation of frost, in previous posts:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

E is for Evening

Strictly speaking, evening is the period of day from the end of the afternoon to the beginning of night.

When evening begins and ends depends on location, time of year, and culture, but it is generally regarded as beginning when the sun is low in the sky and lasting until the end of twilight.

Then, we enter night.

Things always look different at night. Everything takes on a slightly different slant, as if the daytime world is hidden by the darkness and shadows, bringing forth more ominous version to take its place. Perhaps this is why, humans have a preoccupation with creating light. We endeavour to cast aside our concerns and bring forth the familiar again, as we light the night. And it is beautiful.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

D is for Daybreak

There is no time as precious to me, as the start of a new day.

The smell of dew, the still air, the absolute silence of humans, only the soft sound of bird-life gently probing awake the world with their song.

The pastel pink, baby blue and golden glow, form a palette full of promise. A fresh day, a fresh start, a fresh opportunity.

Seize the day!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

C is for Cooperation

cooperation (noun.) definition: the action or process of working together to the same end.

Doing things together allows us to feel the beauty of cooperation.

Cooperation falls into the category of appreciation of moral beauty. Studies have found that moral elevation entails pleasant feelings of warmth in the chest, feeling uplifted, moved, and optimistic about humanity. It is inspiring and gives people the power to really tackle any problem.

As an educator, there is nothing that makes me feel more successful or proud, than witnessing my students cooperate and work together.

After all, they are our future…

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

B is for Brindabella Ranges

It seems only fitting, after being the inspiration for my theme, that I write about the Brindabella Ranges as my first example of physical beauty.

The Brindabella Ranges lie to the west of Canberra (Australia’s capital city) and are more commonly referred to by locals as the ‘Brindabellas’.

The mountains are a dominant presence on the Canberra skyline and can be seen from most locations in the capital and the surrounding region.

The Brindabellas are a key example of my daily appreciation of physical beauty.

The mountains are a commanding vista during my drive to and from work, and returning home from leisure activities in the city centre.

It never ceases to amaze me; the chameleon-like nature of these hills. The hues that construct a jagged and sliced interruption in the seamless sky, range from blue, navy, purple, violet and grey.

They respond to the caress of the seasons and temperatures – almost like a bruise emerging against the smooth skin of the sky.

The sunsets are truly exquisite. The blue of day, gradually changes to pink and gold, and in summers, a deep, burnt orange. If there are clouds present, a myriad of shapes and pictures pluck at the tips of the mountains.

In these moments, I stop and appreciate the beauty of the Brindabellas; the edge of light.

Photo Credit: Brindabellas

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

A is for Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

As a teacher, I firmly believe in the education of the “whole” child – not just academic, but social and emotional growth and development as well.

One of the approaches we use at my school is the VIA Character Strengths. You can click on the link, to explore this further, if you are interested.

After undertaking the survey several times over the last few years, I have consistently found my No. 1 Character Strength is “Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence.”

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence:
“I recognise, emotionally experience, and appreciate the beauty around me and the skill of others.”

WHAT IS APPRECIATION OF BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCE?
Those who express an appreciation of beauty and excellence notice and appreciate beauty, excellence and/or skilled performance in all domains of life, from nature to art to mathematics to science to everyday experience.

People high in Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence are responsive to these three types of goodness:

PHYSICAL BEAUTY
This may include auditory, tactile or abstract. This type of goodness produces awe and wonder in the person experiencing it.

SKILL OR TALENT (EXCELLENCE)
This is often energising, and compels a person to pursue their own goals. It inspires admiration.

VIRTUE OR MORAL GOODNESS (MORAL BEAUTY)
Virtuous goodness makes someone want to be better, more loving and creates feelings of elevation.

The VIA icon for Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence is a strength within the virtue category of transcendence, one of six virtues that subcategorise the 24 VIA Character Strengths.

Transcendence describes strengths that help you connect to the larger universe and provide meaning.

The other strengths in Transcendence are appreciation of beauty and excellence , gratitude , hope , humour , and spirituality .

My 2021 A-Z Challenge will explore the concept of physical, virtue and moral beauty with a splash of skill and talent (excellence) hopefully shown by myself through the writing and/or photography I will use to express this beauty.

I hope you can join me along this journey and enjoy my challenge focus for 2021.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

A-Z Challenge 2021

I must confess, I find myself surprised to be here again.

After a gruelling 2020 in all aspects, my blog has become collateral damage; an unwilling victim of my lack of time, stress and general absence of motivation, or more so, inspiration.

Yet, as I received the A-Z updates and promos over the month of March, I felt a pull. Like a small thread tugging on my conscience and awakening the need to write again.

And here we are.

I missed the official theme reveal, and up until yesterday, was suffering a block with what my theme should be. I would like to say that my theme in fact, came to reveal itself to me.

As I drove back from Dragonboat training, I observed the sun setting over the distant Brindabella Ranges. The mountains were a deep violet; jaggedly interrupting a perfect umber skyline. I realised then that I often experience junctures like these – a spiritual connection; a moment where I can stand in awe of the beauty of the world around me.

And so, the “Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence” theme was born out of my darkened mind.

I anticipate this A-Z may be a little different to my usual musing-style posts, and that you may experience a combination of media and descriptive writing. But sometimes, you just can’t put into words, the exquisite loveliness that surrounds us…

Dolores Abernathy, Westworld : “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”

(More to come on the background of wording of this theme. Stay tuned for “A”)

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Summary: A-Z of Canberra

A summary of my A-Z Challenge posts for 2020, and links to each post, can be found below:

A is for ACT

B is for Breweries

C is for Cycle Paths

D is for Democracy

E is for Enlighten

F is for Floriade

G is for Green Machine

H is for History

I is for Institutions

J is for Jolly Good Food

K is for Kaleidoscope

L is for Lakes

M is for Mountains

N is for Ngunnawal

O is for Offices

P is for Penis Owl

Q is for Questacon

R is for Roundabouts

S is for Suburbs

T is for Telstra Tower

U is for Underrated

V is for Vineyards

W is for Walks

X is for X-Rated

Y is for Y-Number Plates

Z is for Zoom

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Z is for Zoom

Well here we are, the final day of my 2020 A – Z Challenge!

I truly hope you have enjoyed (and been inspired by) my virtual tour of Canberra.

At the moment, travel and tourism is on hold due to COVID-19. But I certainly hope once things are back to “normal” you will get those skates on and ZOOM to visit our national capital!

It’s Australia’s best kept secret. It is so much more than politicians, public servants and porn! It’s a hidden gem and the place I’m proud to call “home”.

To recap (or reread) my A-Z if Canberra, I’ve linked to all my posts for the month of April 2020 HERE.

A – Z of Canberra – Z