The Cracker Barrel: Learning to admire

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

One thing the current pandemic has given many of us is an increase of leisure time. Whether by reducing the hours we spend commuting or curtailing our opportunities for social gathering and other forms of recreation, COVID-19 has definitely dampened some of the excitement of ordinary life.

But, I submit, the fact that we have extra time on our hands affords us a great opportunity: the chance to improve our ability to admire.

I know, I know. Normally we focus on making ourselves worthy of admiration. We pay attention to our looks, our possessions, our actions, our incomes, our reputations. We worry about making a good impression.

But maybe we’ve got the emphasis wrong.

One night this past winter I woke in the middle of the night to the sight of a full moon. I tiptoed to the window to drink in the beauty of huge slabs of moonlight glittering on the snow, crisscrossed and sculpted by dark lines of tree shadow, and was struck by how important it suddenly seemed that the beauty should be admired!


Given the fact that such a sight occurs only a couple of nights during each winter month, and is visible only to those who happen to be awake in the middle of the night, I realized I was seeing something rare and special.

For a painter who creates a work of art, the job of creation isn’t really complete until someone else expresses appreciation for the work. In a parallel way, the beauties of nature beg our admiration. And what’s at stake isn’t just some feel-good emotion.

Now that we humans outnumber all other vertebrate life forms except chickens, simple common sense suggests we reconsider our role as earth’s dominant species. Do we really want to push ever-increasing numbers of other creatures into extinction? Or can we learn how to celebrate the countless beauties around us, and figure out ways of protecting them?

Worship in its truest form may work in just this way - the natural reaction of the viewer to give thanks to a Higher Power for creating the beauty all around. And when you think about it, the urge we feel to love one another may simply be another form of worship.

Now that spring has sprung and virtually everything bloomable is blooming, the opportunity to practice admiration is rampant. Whether working in the garden, out on a walk, standing near the water’s edge, or adjusting your mask at a store entrance, why not take the opportunity to focus on something and admire it?

The beauty of a clover leaf, the tantalizing odor of a blossoming crabapple tree, the astonishing colors of a mallard duck, the lovely curls of a little dog’s hair - the chances for exercising appreciation are everywhere.

While it’s true that COVID-19 has hurt us all and devastated a few, it remains within our power to choose the way we will react to adversity. It’s my belief that, when the chance to respond to a scene or event of beauty confronts us, it makes sense to express our thanks and appreciation, even during difficult times.

To hold back from doing so robs us of the chance to grow as appreciators, and to complete the circle begun by the mysterious force that triggers beauty in the first place.


When beauty appears, admire!

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at

Craig Nagel color.jpg
Craig Nagel, Columnist

What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads
Members Only