To find the beautiful

Gludgey joins Drew, Matt and Jeff looking out from the Coast Starlight. Santa Barbara County, California, April 1993

Gludgey joins Drew, Matt and Jeff looking out the window of the Coast Starlight.
Santa Barbara County, California, April 1993

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

A year ago today I wrote about Drew’s beloved toy raccoon Gludgey, who went along with our family everywhere we traveled.  Books, favorite snacks, and comfortable shoes are other things we carried with us wherever we went.

Of course, that’s not what Emerson meant when he talked about carrying the beautiful with us.  He wasn’t talking about objects, but the attitude he describes can make these everyday items beautiful to us, even when they are ordinary and worn.  When we look past the surface to the substance, we will indeed find beauty wherever we go.

What are some of the tangible and intangible things you carry with you when you travel?  How do these things help you find what is beautiful in other landscapes and circumstances?

One year ago today:

Things that look used



  1. HarryS

    “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Wow-wee!!!! 🙂

    • I’m glad you like that quote as much as I do!

  2. Good morning, Julia! Emerson is so right – it’s like having “beauty receptors” and I feel so sorry for people who have not developed theirs!
    One thing I like to carry with me is the thought that no matter where I go, God’s been there first. In fact, he’s been there for a long time, and is intimately familiar with it, and with all of the people there (having made them). This really is “my Father’s world.” (Not to brag! 😀 )
    I had forgotten how babies explore stuffed animals like that. They touch their noses and eyes … I wonder, what are they thinking? And then they throw them and retrieve them … and again, I wonder what they’re thinking!

    • Susan, I agree with you that one has to have “receptors” to fully appreciate some things, and they differ from person to person. Some are keenly aware of music, for example, and others of nature, and still others, literature and poetry, and so on. I think these sensitivities can be developed if a person is willing to be open to it. Those who are tuned in to many different frequencies are lucky indeed! I had the same thoughts watching the video of Grady with Drew’s childhood toy. I wondered when he would toss it away and then bring it back, if he was trying to see if it was alive, after looking so intently into its eyes and touching its face. I used to wish I could be Matt for just one day, to help me understand how his mind works and what his senses perceive. It’s similar with a baby, too; we can’t really remember what it was like to see through their eyes, but it would be interesting! YES it’s a reassuring thought that we cannot go anywhere that God has not already been. I used to remind myself of that when we would be scheduled for another move and I would feel as if we were begin torn away from friends we loved and a community of supports (especially for Matt) that had taken time to build.

  3. bobmielke

    When I went on my Big Adventure using that Starlight train to San Francisco from Portland I didn’t have a mascot with me. That came later when on the tour bus I boarded to 5 national parks in the Southwest. One of the passengers had her “Wiley” mascot with her and started a fad amongst the other 35 members of my tour bus. I bought “Andrew” The Mountain in the Grand Canyon. After taking a few photos of Andrew in a variety of camping situations I gave him to a little girl who hugged him intensely. Her big smile and huge glowing eyes confirmed that Andrew had found his rightful home.

    • What a great idea to let a kid adopt Andrew after your trek! It can be so much fun to take photos of these little toys in different settings. Boomdee has Alyster, a gnome who goes with her to various places. Since he’s tiny she can get some interesting close ups of the places she travels, by featuring Alyster kicking up his heels (literally, as he’s permanently in that position) in various spots all along the way.

      • bobmielke

        On our 12 day bus tour half a dozen of us toted our mascots to 5 national parks, placing them along on our hikes and placing them on park signs. It’s as if they were on a big adventure.

        • I wish somebody had documented that. It would make a great travel story.

          • bobmielke

            Indeed. 36 people from 18 different countries on the road for 12 days through 5 national parks in late July, early Augusta. What an epic journey it was. Ages varied from 19 to 82.

            • Wow, that does sound like quite a trip, definitely a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. I’m glad you were able to be part of that group.

  4. singleseatfighterpilot

    For some reason the word tangible immediately brought to mind the little snow sled that had been named “Rosebud”. “Citizen Kane” is a movie I could never watch in its entirety (there are others like “Titanic”, and most recently, “Gravity”). Orson Welles, in the titular role, on the surface seems to be a man with millions of admirers; but did he ever have any flesh-and-blood humans he allowed to be close to him? I am suggesting he brought “Rosebud” along with him on his final journey. Was Rosebud tangible or intangible?

    • Eric, I have never been a big fan of Citizen Kane either, but now that you mention it, I do wonder whether the Rosebud symbol was inspired by something in Welles’ life, as so many literary and artistic motifs are. Like wedding rings, old photographs and other family heirlooms, I think Rosebud was both tangible and intangible. We like these objects that represent more than their physical form suggests. Almost everyone I know who is an enthusiastic collector of Christmas ornaments will tell you that most all of them have a story or memory behind them. Perhaps this dual presence of tangible and intangible qualities is suggestive of our souls, which go far beyond what people see of us, just as religious sacraments are physically real but even more spiritually significant.

  5. Ah, yes… book bags filled with favorite books and toys. Brings back memories…my husband always said just going to the grocery store looked as if we were moving! 🙂

    • Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we haul around when our kids are little? I remember a grandmother in our Ohio church, who brought a purse full of Tupperware for Matt to play with quietly during the church service. Luckily, almost anything can be a toy to a kid.

  6. This video made me cry!! My son always had “Monkey,” a blue and yellow stuffed monkey he slept with and took everywhere until he was five or so. My daughter had “Ellie” her elephant puppet that someone from Child Evangelism Fellowship gave her after a Vacation Bible School week when she was about three. She took Ellie everywhere for years! Thanks for bringing back sweet memories to me today! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked the video! Isn’t it amazing how nostalgic we can get when we see our kids’ old toys? Years ago Matt had a blue and yellow monkey that I recently gave to our nephew’s child…I wonder whether it might have been the same kind as your son had? It is so cute! We also had an elephant puppet, but ours was named Jim Abbott (after the baseball player). Sometimes I think the toys our kids love become more dear to us than to them.

      • I agree about the last part you said. I am never going to want them to take any of their dearest things with them!

        • I am even having a hard time throwing away all the old school mementos that neither of my sons seems to care about keeping. I will never want to get rid of Matt’s Webelos shirt/sash or Drew’s baseball awards, and all that stuff is not even CUTE like a stuffed toy is!

  7. Drew very well may have taken beauty with him in his racoon friend.
    When I was his age and handicapped by polio, I had a stuffed lime green dog with floppy ears, rolling eyes and a red tongue that stuck out. I must have taken him everywhere, because I remember him so well.
    The love that Drew, like myself, impart on our stuffed friends, is the love that we receive from our parents. We sacrifice for our little friends in the manner that we, in truth, have received from our mom and dad.
    That love that we carried with us, sybolically, in these special toys truly enhanced the beauty that we observed.

    • Alan, thank you for sharing that memory – it reawakened one of my own I had forgotten about. When I was a young girl my mother used to make toys for craft fairs (for a women’s club that raised funds to support a school) and she made a lime green frog that she stuffed with bird seed. He had these adorable round eyes and I fell in love with it immediately and begged her to give it to me. Somehow your description of your lime green dog brought my frog to mind. Perhaps, as you say, the frog was special to me because my mother made it and my affection for it was somehow a mirror of hers for me. These toys really do represent far more than their cute or comical appearance suggests.

  8. Julia, to say I’m relieved is an understatement. My concern was probably because of some comments earlier in the week regarding Jeff’s hospital visit. Y’all have quite the support team here. 🙂 How wonderful that well traveled Gludgey gets another chance of love and adventure. I love that, love the name. You, my friend, have a great weekend! Fall is in the air and it’s terrific!

    • Hi Sheila, thanks so much for your concern. Jeff really did have a rough day Tuesday; they found an internal abscess on his Monday scan and felt it needed to be treated immediately (before our trip) so we spend the day at Bethesda where he had outpatient minor surgery. We’re home now and hoping for a fairly normal week. We spent a few days visiting his family in Tennessee, and I got to take a side trip to go see my sister, Aunt Peggy, and cousins in Alabama. It was lovely to see everyone but good to be home.

  9. Michael

    So Gludgey is an old Welsh family name? John-Michael has a lemur that we got at the Bronx Zoo. I call him Lenny.

    • Michael, “Gludgey” is totally the product of Drew’s two-year-old imagination. We never had any idea where he got that name. He just said “His name is Gludgey.” I wish it was a Welsh name — or any kind of name — but just to make sure, I Googled it and only came up with links to my own blog posts!

  10. raynard

    Julia don’t tell anyone. I still have a teddy bear with goggles that use to ride in the company truck while working in NJ.He kept good company along with the all news station on the radio and Then came Maude lol Sorry for the senior moment/Freudian Slip rotfl be blessed

    • Aw, I bet a teddy bear with goggles is adorable. Matt has one with wire frame glasses that is meant to be Benjamin Franklin. Maude might say you-know-who will get you for that slip, but I thought it was funny. My lips are sealed.

  11. Michael

    Try Gludgwyn of which I think Gludgey may be a variant. I think Gludgwyn was a Knight valiant in the middle kingdom.
    By the way Josephine Nicole was born at 3:20 a.m. at Kennestone Hospital.They left Canton at 9:30 p.m. so I think they called it a little close. She only had to push for 20 minutes. Anyway they are going home sometime today. I think they have some picts on facxebook.
    I will try and send one.
    I am fixing to chuck my computer out as Yahoo now has these annoying full page adds that come on every 5 minutes. They want you to pay more money to minimize the adds which is kind of extortion.

    • CONGRATULATIONS!!! I will be watching for the photos. No luck with Gludgwyn, either. Maybe my computer doesn’t speak Welsh. Hey you must have missed Alys’ hint about installing Ad Block – it’s free and easy, and I love it already! You can download it here: and see if it doesn’t make life a lot easier online. Since I downloaded it a short time ago, I’ve not seen any obnoxious ads. You will need to go in and configure it to block ALL ads if you don’t want to see any at all, but it automatically blocks the most annoying ones.

  12. Michael

    Your discussion above reminds me of what I have read of the Icons found in devout Russian homes. I understand in every room there is an icon-reminder of the Holy One.
    Looking around my room I see my Icons-most recently a foot print pressing of Norah sent to me her second birthday -which I believe is today, three days after the birth of her baby sister Josephine.
    Funny thing about birthdays. My wife and little brother also have the same birthday. Coincidence of providence?

    • Michael, when I read about the new grandbaby, I thought of Norah and wondered what she thinks about her. Is she excited? A bit jealous about sharing the attention? Or a little of both? The birthday thing is interesting. I have read somewhere that in a relatively small group, the odds are that two will have the same birthday. Why would that be? Someone who knows statistics and probability might be able to explain. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it seems to be. Eric and Dad have the same birthday. Jeff, his younger sister, his cousin and I all have the same birthday!

  13. Michael

    “Dual presence of tangible and intangible in this object as suggestive of the soul” -great thought.

    • I was thinking of baptism and communion, and how the tangible mixes with the intangible in these acts of faith.

  14. Michael

    Norah has already tried to change the babies diaper and feed her Cheerios. She will be an awesome big sister and has been practicing various tasks- including the diaper changes. Norah has also been taking blood pressures with a real stethoscope and may be headed toward a medical occupatin. Michael explained to her that Josephine has no teeth yet.
    I wonder how their third child Bodhi- the puggle- will handle all of this? He is the jealous one.
    So just one big party for the two of them?
    You and Jeff have the same birthday? Now I remember that.

    In regards to symbols in Catholic thought one sees ” an outward symbol of an inward grace.”This is also said about Babtism, marriage, confirmation.

    Thanks for the computer tip- which I am fixing to try today.

    • Hooray for Norah! She has lots of fun in store, and will be a big help for her parents, I’m sure. Bodhi, not so much 🙂 at least not at first. I would suggest one big party for two, though I’d probably get lots of arguments on that one. But I think one of the best things my parents did for us growing up, was NOT to make a great big deal of our birthdays. I maybe had one or two small parties my entire life. I have had friends who felt neglected as full grown adults if nobody made a big deal over their birthday. I never have to miss anything like that because I never got used to it to begin with. BTW I see you fixing to become fluent in Southern. 😀

  15. Michael

    Verie is on her way to Atlanta-even as we blog.

    • Yay! I’m so glad she is able to go. Hopefully you can make a visit soon.

  16. Michael

    I am fixin to make a trip down there in November. Right fair amount of rain today in Seattle.
    Would you believe it? Still almost 70 degrees here in the rain.

    • Wow, 70 degrees in the rain! That would be rare in September almost anywhere. Y’all must think it’s still summer.

  17. Michael

    Today They were talking on NPR about the current labor dispute with the Atlanta symphony and how in 62″ there was a terrible accident in Europe that wiped out some of Atlanta’s great supporters of the arts. They were relating the current situation- and lack of funding =to the demise of these great benefactors of the arts in Atlanta. Some history here-I reckon. Perhaps you might enlighten me some- if not too painful. Also I did not realize Atlanta has the tenth largest economy in the nation?

    • Michael, I remember visiting the High Museum as a schoolgirl, and learning of the plane crash that took the lives of so many Atlanta Art patrons. I think it’s a bit crass to equate budget cuts with such tragic loss of lives that, after all, had many dimensions in addition to support of the arts. BTW as a kid I thought the High Museum was called that in the sense of the word “exalted” — but actually, it’s named after the High family, who were its original benefactors. I’m not surprised Atlanta is the 10th largest economy. I have always thought of it as the nations best-kept secret. I’m so thankful that I grew up there.

  18. Michael

    75 degrees at the beach today. Absolutely gorgeous day.
    The High museum is not the Altanta History museum/Swan house- where they have all the info on the famous golfer from Atlanta- Bobby?? The article drew a distinction between old money in Atlanta and the Nouveau rich-who it seems are not as interested in the traditional arts. The article was also not a might denigrating to the current patrons of the symphony in Atlanta saying they are not as willing to pay the national norm for concert tickets and would only go if-ticket prices were lowered. That does seem crass and kind of a put down.
    Here in Seattle they are charging an average of 300 dollars for a Seahawks game – and also charging up to 100 dollars to park. Crazy. So for a family of four that would be about 1200 dollars. Just a might steep I would say.

    • Wow, sounds like a perfect day. As far as I know, the High has no relation to Swan house – two totally different locations and I don’t think the High has anything to do with Bobby Jones — though I didn’t realize he had anything to do with Swan House either. Don’t get me started on the ridiculous amounts of money that are lavished on professional sports. It really is crazy but it would stop tomorrow if people started refusing to buy the tickets. Rock concerts and country music pull in big bucks for their concerts too but I guess classical music just doesn’t have the celebrity power going for it (with a few exceptions, but even these mega-stars probably don’t command the prices that sports and rock stars do). We have a super public radio station in Norfolk that plays all classical music all the time, and we stream it via computer up here. Matt often chooses to listen to WHRO rather than watch videos or television. He can tell you which DJ is on at what hours, and has even met a few of them.


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