A Beautiful Soul

This is about a book about a beautiful lady. Beautiful pictures of a beautiful woman. Decades ago, when I was still in college, I happened to turn the channel and watched a young lady with so much poise, so much charm glide so elegantly across the small screen. The lady was Audrey Hepburn. The movie was Roman Holiday. They say that your love for something starts with something small. I think that in that day, in my small room with that small tv set, my love for movies was born. I feel lucky that the movie that first piqued my interest is a classic that today remains, for me, one of my favorite movies of all time. Who couldn’t love that luminous actress with those soulful eyes? Who could not love Audrey Hepburn? And heck, Gregory Peck wasn’t bad either. And Eddie Albert, in a fantastic supporting role. And who can forget Rome, after watching the princess and the newspaperman speed through its streets in that Vespa scooter. It’s strange to remember that what made them happy was doing ordinary things together. Just enjoying what life has to offer.

And one of the joys that life has to offer, at least to me, is reading books. The pandemic has given me a chance to go through my library and get rid of books, Kondo style, that have never given me pleasure. Perhaps if I actually read them, but no. I thought I would trim the fat, so to speak, but I bought “Always Audrey” and I was hooked. Yes, I sold a lot of my unread books, but I ended up buying a lot more books. Mostly books on photographers and their photographs. Some books on how to become a better photographer. Though in truth, I really cherish looking through the pictures in the books I purchased. Discovering new places, new people, new things. Learning about life through the eyes of others.

All these wonders unfolded because like the movie she starred in, Audrey Hepburn got me hooked. “Always Audrey” is a fantastic book. It’s a book about a beautiful woman. It’s a book about six photographers who were extremely gifted in what they did. And how the same person can be so different when seen through a different person’s eyes. Truly a magnificent book to own.

Sometimes, I wish that fashion photography would just be simply showing something beautiful as beautifully as you can. There are many photographers who have done that and though they’ve all done the same thing, they did it differently. There is artistry in simplicity.

I watched the Audrey Hepburn documentary on Amazon Prime. And it struck me how beautiful those eyes were. And how those eyes were windows to something even more beautiful. A beautiful soul.

A few years after graduating from college, I saw Audrey Hepburn being interviewed after returning from Somalia, on a mission for UNICEF. I didn’t pay much attention to it. She had gotten older and now she had time for her causes. I realize now how callous that view was. She was older and she had time to do anything she wanted. And what she wanted to do was go around the world, to give voice to those that didn’t have a voice. To bring attention to the famine, to the hunger, to the suffering of the people of Somalia. A great human tragedy. And the world was largely ignoring it. And there was Miss Hepburn. Showing the world that we can be better. We don’t have to watch the suffering. That we can all try to make this world better.

And the words she said ring so true to me. “I don’t believe in collective guilt. I believe in collective responsibility.”

Truly, those eyes were windows to a beautiful soul.

Our Little Planet

One of the interesting things to see at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is the nuclear power plant in the not so far off distance.  It is a tribute to nature’s resilience and diversity that one of the symbol’s of mastery of the resources available to him is readily seen in what is a reminder of the place that we live in.  The little blue marble that hangs like a jewel in the night, that delicate ball of water, minerals, air, the third planet from a smallish yellow main sequence star, the rock that we call Earth.  To walk at Bombay Hook is to appreciate nature’s gift to man.  A place of beauty, a place teeming with life, a place that must be nurtured if it is continue to be a dwelling place for all the creatures that live and visit there.  A place that is a microcosm of the ecosystems around the world that we live in.  We have diverse environments around the world, many of which are threatened by unbridled and undisciplined human activity.  Why do we throw out so much plastic every day, every year?  What happened to water fountains?  Or at least that reusable jug that we carried water in?  We think that the most visible and egregious symbols of environmental destruction are the wanton release of hydrocarbons in the air, the precursor to an unstoppable, runaway greenhouse effect that will doom the planet into a Venus like existence.  The nuclear plants that can release dangerous radiation into the air are often seen as threats to the world we live in.  And yet, they are efficient power generators that provide the electricity to millions of people and make industry and technological advances possible.  There are arguments for eliminating or at least reducing our reliance on systems that threaten the health of our world.  Lost in the discussion is something that we see with our eyes every day.  Our disposable society has made as much of a negative impact on the health of the planet as any other man made “intervention.”

I have some training in science and engineering.  I believe that someday, we will be able to remove gases from the air to lessen the effects of global warming.  We will be able to generate power more efficiently, more cleanly (though I worry about migrating birds running into vast power generating turbines on the shores and in the open fields).  And yet, will the climatic changes that are currently under way be stemmed (or reversed) by some future scientific endeavor?  Also, the debate presupposes that we have all the facts and that the answers are already clear (when it comes to the global warming debate).  I have some questions still.  How much of the perceived global warming is an artifact of human activity and how much of it can be attributed to a natural cycle that we do not understand?  The sun’s radiation output is not uniform.  Random events that release dust and gas into the atmosphere (volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, meteor strikes) have short and long term effects on the environment.  If we pass through a “dusty” part of the galaxy, will there be a measurable drop in the amount of solar radiation that reaches the planet and what effect will it have on life?  So many questions left to be asked.  And answered.

All I know is that we must be better stewards of the world that we live in.  Higher efficiency power generation, less reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power plants.  Less pollution, more recycling.  The mantras of today’s environmental movement.  All good things.  And yet, we can start our own revolution at home.  Use less water when washing clothes.  Use less plastics.  You say they are bio degradable?  If they take hundreds of years to degrade, is that really harmless?  Drive less, walk more.  Use the bicycle a little bit more.  This would mean that the cities and suburbs that we live in may actually look like neighborhoods again.  Accessible stores, libraries, restaurants.  And if you walk enough, you may even meet someone new and interesting.  And if you walk enough, you may see that there are a lot of things that we  individuals can do to keep our planet cleaner.  Safer.  If you walk enough, you give yourself time to think about your own life, and maybe make it better.  So, here’s a random thought.  Walk a mile or two and in your own small way, foster a revolution that will make our planet a better world for all of us.  Today.  And ensure its future as that blue marble teeming with life, a world of varied ecosystems, all in harmony with each other.