Seek Not Afar for Beauty – by Jemma Provance. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Seek Not Afar for Beauty – by Jemma Provance. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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I have a deep appreciation for all things lovely. That being said, it pained me growing up that all the prettiest things in town were the Styrofoam facades on the front of the hardware stores. Plural.

In former summers, I was free to take road trips to prettier parts of the state, travel to Stillwater with touring choirs, and go absolutely anywhere that was nicer than Roseau, Minnesota. This included travel blogs that seeped wanderlust into my bloodstream with every clicked picture of towering redwoods and misty mountains and a whole host of things nowhere near my lonely little hometown.

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Finally, when I was seventeen left the continent to see my first mountains in Britain and Ireland. My little soul, reared in a flyover state landlocked by cornfields ten miles south of the Canadian border, was enthralled with the unfailingly lovely Old World, that even in the middle of town refused to lie flat, spilling its vegetation onto stone walls and overflowing iron gates and thatched roofs with flowering plants. Cobbled little towns were full of cathedrals built before minimalism overtook our increasingly industrial species. Rolling mountainsides full of sheep and heather seared themselves into the backs of my eyelids, and bits of my heart fell like breadcrumbs the farther the return plane got from the Emerald Isle.

I realize, now, how farsighted this was. John Green, one of my favorite writers and people, was once showing his two-year-old son the way way a fog shrouded a valley in mist, cozying into the trees like a pearly flood in the early morning light. A two-year-old was much more interested in a nearby leaf. While initially frustrated, he looked down and realized all the little fractaled veins in the autumn leaf that had fallen mid-change so it was now a perfect fade from bright orange to a dull green. The level of beauty one experiences, even one from a little gas-station town like mine, lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look.

Now, when I drive through town, I see the little nooks that previously escaped my notice. Our neighborhood coffee and brunch place is cute. We have many a wooded park. The local greenhouse sells clocks and wind chimes and all the fixings of an old-world-esque garden. Not only all this, but my own yard is a secluded wonderland of wooded nooks and tiny fractals that previously escaped my notice. The inside of my house, at certain times of the day, was filled with a golden light that, impossibly, made the darkest corners glow with a knowing satisfaction.

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I still would rather be most other places than Roseau. I’m still an aspiring world traveler with a growing list of cathedrals to see and mountains to hike. But when an exhausting job keeps my summer skin shackled to this scrappy bit of real estate, leaving the travel blogs at home and exploring your own yard, I find, is an acceptable substitute. Go not abroad for happiness, for see a flow’r at thy door.

Jemma serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

33 Comments

Filed under Jemma Provance, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

33 responses to “Seek Not Afar for Beauty – by Jemma Provance. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Nicholas Gangi

      This article is good to understand that beauty is not always blatant. It shows that if we just go through life thinking that beautiful landscapes and scenery will just be there, that we will miss a vast majority of beauty. Even in the simplest of things, there can be a complex and beautiful structure. Also, you made the point that you still want to travel and find beauty there. It just proves that there will always be more just have to go find it.

  1. Cassie Mahlberg

    Jemma, this piece is beautifully written. Although it is not the typical NSR article we see on a regular basis about the exciting travels around the world, it still holds a lot of substance. Most people, as you discuss, look far away to find the beauty and wonder of the world, but there is much to see even in our own neighborhoods. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to leave the mundane life I lead in Duluth, MN, to go abroad and make new discoveries; it’s been a long time since I’ve taken joy in what is offered to me at home. The short moments looking out on Lake Superior, seeing that beauty, is the only appreciation I’ve held for my home in a long time, but there are even smaller things to look at and find joy in. Pieces like this are what remind us to enjoy the little things.

  2. McKenna Holman

    Jemma, you sure do have a knack for writing! I often real the way you did before. My hometown is small and boring, most of the time. I often think of all the other places that I can travel and see other parts of the world’s beauty. This is one of the reasons I was so excited to live in Duluth for 9 months out of the year. Its beautiful and you can never bore of looking at the beauty of Lake Superior. This piece really makes me excited to go home and look at everything in a new light, to try and find the beauty in my small hometown. It really makes me realize how I have taken my hometown for granted and that in fact I am sure someday when I only visit home for a week or so at a time I’ll really miss it and it’s beauty.

  3. Abigail DeLisle

    Great article, Jemma! I really appreciate and can relate to how you feel- I am from the Red River Valley. I too sought excitement and longed for change/adventure/travel growing up in my boring little town with no culture- or so I thought. It wasn’t until I left my home town, state, and country that I could come back to make connections to other places and people. The statement : “The level of beauty one experiences, even one from a little gas-station town like mine, lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look.” really rings true to me. I am very grateful for your honesty and simplicity in reminding ourselves to look at our own lives with awe.

  4. This is absolutely wonderful! I found beauty simply in your writing voice while reading this article. I felt the same way about my hometown as a child, but after traveling myself I began to see the beauty in every place, even boring Superior, WI. I think the same rings true for people who live in places we might consider beautiful, for them it is an everyday scene while for us it is exciting and new. And vice-a-versa. It is an interesting phenomena indeed!

  5. Michaela Campbell

    It’s hard to grow up in a seemingly small, stagnant community that doesn’t seem to offer much to the adolescent/young adult mind. Therefore we seem to always dream of traveling to the places that are completely opposite of those we grew up in. I love how you point out the experiences and visuals you had while traveling abroad, and were in awe of the new things you were able to see. In contrast, it was important how after returning to your hometown, that you were able to appreciate the simplicities of your home and the things you were familiar with. It is often the little things in our lives that we seem to omit or forget about. In addition, your reference to John Green was an important aspect of this article as he always seems to know how to describe a wonderful visual scene, no matter the location.

  6. “Rolling mountainsides full of sheep and heather seared themselves into the backs of my eyelids, and bits of my heart fell like breadcrumbs the farther the return plane got from the Emerald Isle.” I could feel the angst of your words. How very profound of you to describe movement in the manner that you did! I wanted so badly to be in Ireland just to breathe in everything it offered to you. The sight imagery in your words is incredible! I think we forget the intricacy of nature and how accessible it is to all of us, even in our respective hometowns. Believe it or not, someone from across the world would love to get a glimpse of Roseau, Minnesota. Thank you for sharing a part of your experience with us!!!

  7. Sofia Pineda

    think it is quite interesting to come to the realization that beauty has always been in front of your eyes until you cease to see it. When we travel abroad we see beauty we have never been exposed to, but at the same time we start to miss the beauty we have been exposed to all our lives. The small details in our hometowns soon become what you miss the most. As an international student I can relate to this. I started appreciating the beauty of my country until I came to the United States. While I appreciate the scene Duluth has to offer with its snow cover pine trees, I miss the green rain forests from back home and the sand beach.

  8. Thomas Landgren

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article! I had a similar mindset a few years ago. Being stuck in a town for 20 years you start to ignore the beauty around you because you are wanting to go experience the world. When you final go out and have those experiences you get a new way of looking at the entire world. Growing up in Duluth I never really thought I was lucky or that this city had anything that was worth bragging about. When I got older and started to go out and experience what Duluth really offered, if I just put more effort into looking, I found a whole new city. Now I am obsessed with Duluth and I believe that I am lucky for being able to spend 20 years here. It is a strange mentality. Great Article!

  9. Ellery Bruns

    I love the message you are conveying in your article. It is important to find beauty in small; seemingly insignificant; things. I think this is why I love trees so much. That may sound a little tree-hugger-ish, but it’s true. Every detail in a tree is fascinating to me. From the small veins stretching throughout each leaf to the sturdy trunk that sways with the wind, and to the roots that grasp at the ground to support the tree itself are beautiful aspects I think a lot of people miss if they aren’t looking hard enough. Trees, for me, take a busy and chaotic life and stabilize it, calm it. I make it a point to notice the beauty in the tiny things because if I can’t see it in those, how can I see beauty at all? I wish our society were focused on appreciating the world instead of fixating on a fast pace, erratic, lifestyle (the one where downtime is not real). Thank you for writing this article!

  10. Dylan Brovick

    I really enjoyed reading this article the descriptions you give on many of the things you are writing about are so real that I can picture them in my head. I had the same thoughts of my home town that when I left for college a couple of years ago I was so ecstatic to be living in another city. The thoughts in my head at the time were that my hometown was so bland and I feel that a lot of people think this about their hometown because they get so used to the things around them they don’t take in some of the unique things their city has to offer. I found this out my freshman year of college that when ever I would return I instantly noticed any small change to a building or new road construction. Also I enjoyed driving around a lot more because I am only home for a weekend every couple of months it is nice to drive around and think about all the memories I have in my town. Lastly I can relate to my own home feeling different when I visit home. My backyards is a wooded area and I just love looking out the window into the woods and seeing the stream flow. So many good memories are associated with my hometown now and when I left for college I never would have thought I would miss some of the things I do about it.

  11. The photography of the little yellow house with the beautiful yellow flowers in the foreground is simply breathtaking. The vibrant colors captured within the photographs you took of nature and architecture really added an element of uniqueness because it’s something you normally don’t see in the industrial world so much anymore. ‘’The level of beauty one experiences,…lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look’’. This specific quotation resonated with me because it’s so powerful yet simple. It’s the small things in life that we experience that impact us if we pay attention to them in that moment. This way of thinking reminds me of the concept of minimalism and I believe that is a lifestyle human beings should implement back into their everyday lives to distress from living within such a overstimulated world. I also thought your quotation: ‘’go not abroad for happiness, for see a flow’r at thy door’’ was insightful because human beings try so hard to search for happiness far away when in reality happiness is right outside a person’s door. Humans have to unplug and tap back into harmony with the natural world around them.

  12. The photography of the little yellow house with the beautiful yellow flowers in the foreground is simply breathtaking. The vibrant color captured within the photographs you took of nature and architecture really added an element of uniqueness because it’s something you normally don’t see in the industrial world so much anymore. ‘’The level of beauty one experiences,…lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look’’. This specific quotation resonated with me because it’s so powerful yet simple. It’s the small things in life that we experience that impact us if we pay attention in the moment. This way of thinking reminds me of the concept of minimalism and I believe that is a lifestyle human beings should implement this back into their everyday lives to distress from living within such a overstimulated society. I also thought your quotation: ‘’go not abroad for happiness, for see a flow’r at thy door’’ was insightful because human beings try so hard to search for happiness far away when in reality happiness was right outside a person’s door. Humans have to unplug and tap back into harmony with the natural world.

  13. The photography of the little yellow house with the beautiful yellow flowers in the foreground is simply breathtaking. The vibrant colors captured within the photographs you took of nature and architecture really added an element of uniqueness because it’s something you normally don’t see in the industrial world so much anymore. ‘’The level of beauty one experiences,…lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look’’. This specific quotation resonated with me because it’s so powerful yet simple. It’s the small things in life that we experience that impact us if we pay attention in that moment. This way of thinking reminds me of the concept of minimalism and I believe that is a lifestyle human beings should implement this back into their everyday lives to distress from living within such a overstimulated society. I also thought your quotation: ‘’go not abroad for happiness, for see a flow’r at thy door’’ was insightful because human beings try so hard to search for happiness far away when in reality happiness was right outside a person’s door. Humans have to unplug and tap back into harmony with the natural world around them.

  14. The photography of the little yellow house with the beautiful yellow flowers in the foreground is simply breathtaking. The vibrant color captured within the photographs you took of nature and architecture really added an element of uniqueness because it’s something you normally don’t see in the industrial world so much anymore. ‘’The level of beauty one experiences,…lies not with how far you travel, but how closely you look’’. This specific quotation resonated with me because it’s so powerful yet simple. It’s the small things in life that we experience that impact us if we pay attention in the moment. This way of thinking reminds me of the concept of minimalism and I believe that is a lifestyle human beings should implement back into their everyday lives to distress from living within such a overstimulated society. I also thought your quotation: ‘’go not abroad for happiness, for see a flow’r at thy door’’ was insightful because human beings try so hard to search for happiness far away when in reality happiness was right outside a person’s door. Humans have to unplug and tap back into harmony with the natural world around them.

  15. Your writing is enchanting. A few years ago, I completed a course called The Philosophy of Beauty. Most of our classes consisted of evening conversations and debate in a circular desk arrangement in the fourth floor of tower. We focused on the concept and historical roots of aesthetics. Although we did ultimately come to the conclusion that beauty is concrete and measurable, we did not begin to scratch the surface of digging for hidden beauty in everyday objects. I deeply appreciate the description of your changing mentality surrounding beauty and would be curious to understand what caused the transition? Was it the story that you so eloquently summarized? Was it a moment during your travels? Or was it when you finally returned home to Roseau?

  16. Diana Mena

    This is such a heart warming article. I think that we live in such fast pace society that we forget to breathe and look at what is happening all around us. One thing that my grandma has always said is that the elderly and young children know more knowledge about the complex functions of mother nature then we will ever know. I think that is very accurate. If we keep going the way we are we are just going to miss out on all the beauty that is around us. I mean just like you mentioned about the two- year old that noticed all the details of that one leaf. The fact that he took the time to touch and analyze the colors and lines, something that we would not even think of because we are two “busy”. I feel like this is part of way we have a problem with global warming, which just makes me so sad to see our earth being treated this way. I am glad that you are taking the time to look into all of this and travel. One of the best things you can do is notice the little things that you wouldn’t notice.

  17. Emily Hanson

    Jemma, you have such a beautiful way of writing. It was such a soothing escape to read your article. I love your prospective on appreciating the world around you. For too often I feel as though we don’t do that. We’re all so caught up in leaving our home town and creating our own lives somewhere “more exciting.” But it’s true how much beauty is hidden everywhere. Some of my favorite travels are to small “gas station towns” as you called them. They have so much personality and character. I love the area of knowing everyone in my town and having such a bond with everyone. I feel as though John Green would love and appreciate the time and emotion you put into your views of the world.

  18. I particularly enjoyed this post. Emotionally I really resonated with the feeling put into this work. My first reaction was that I believe sometimes I took my hometown Stillwater for grated, while other times I have reveled in its beauty and counted myself lucky to have grown up in such a beautiful town. My second though was how similar I felt about travelling. Ever since I was young I wanted to travel and experience the world. Ireland too was a destination of mine, and the experience was one of a lifetime. I cherished every moment of that trip, and will hold it dear to my heart and sole. Travel is something that begs for adventure and pushes us towards the future, as well as teaching us about rich histories around the world. Thank you for this fantastic post:)

  19. Andrew Bailey

    Jemma, what a fascinating realization that you have come to and now written about for others (including myself) to discover. What your testimony reminds me of, is that we do not miss (and sometimes appreciate) our home until we are gone. There is so much beauty in the world, both natural and unnatural, and there is so little time to discover it all. The least we can do is appreciate the beauty of our own neighborhoods and homes. I have not been back to my home since mid August because I have been at school, but I will be going back home for winter break. Upon my return, I will make an active attempt to appreciate the little things that I took for granted in my home town. Thank you for your insight and testimony.

  20. Hannah Schaaf

    Nice post! I definitely relate when you talk about how you find beauty in your community after your travels. I know that for me I have experienced the same thing. Things from home see more meaningful now that I’ve moved away. I can’t wait to travel more though and find beauty and other things. Great job! Happy trails!

  21. Christopher Killian

    I am glad you were able to find the beauty in nature. I live Taylors Falls, Minnesota so I am always surrounded by nature. From the state park to the St.Croix river I am able to go out and explore except in the winter. In the fall the leaves turn color and it makes the area really light up and very fun to explore. In the future I want to travel to other states and parts of the world and experience the nature each place holds. What places would you like to travel in the future?

  22. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jemma! I too come from a little town where when I left home for college and returned home. I noticed my little coffee cafe and the waterfall in my town. Others may tell us to reach outside our comfort zone and explore the world, but you have brought up a valid point that we do not need to enjoy the greatest/largest places in the world to widen our views of particular nature. Sometimes the easiest way to reach deeper into our life around us is to simply to not take for granted the things around us, they are much more than they seem. Although for others, adventuring to other places in the world are great too. I too have traveled to Ireland where I experienced the wonderful foliage and sheep. Those things might seem so simple to citizens of Ireland that maybe in turn they could visit your little town of Roseau and change their aspect of life.

  23. Kathleen Reicher

    Well done, Jemma! I love your description of Ireland! I have also been there and long to return someday. I went with my family when I was only in the 5th grade, so I didn’t appreciate its beauty as much as I would today. It was a great family vacation, and I would love to go back. What was your reason for going to Ireland and Britain? Your message in this piece of writing is a great one, and you conveyed it in such a beautiful way. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Amanda Sullivan

    This is a lovely article! I am constantly having an itch to travel and have been tempted numerous times to just pack a back and go. However, there is something about the towns I call home that keep me from going. When I first moved up to Duluth for school I never really saw much of the city. Everyone had expressed to me their jealousy that I am able to call such a beautiful city my home. However, I never really saw it, until last year. Once again, I backed my bags to go home for the four months of summer. I quickly realized how much I loved the city of Duluth. The beauty of the town, the ability to experience new things everyday, the people, everything about the city is wonderful. It wasn’t just a town on a hill with a lake next to it as I used to see it, but rather a unique new place I am able to call home.

  25. Emily Buugni

    I am very much alike. I am from the small town of Iron Mountain, MI. I have traveled far and wide trying to capture more beautiful sights than what I had in my home town. Yes, Hawaii is beautiful and so is Maine, but Michigan is my home. It is my heart. It may not be the most beautiful or breathtaking, but it is simply perfect in every way. It just takes a deeper look. Now when I go home I realize that the sunset is more beautiful there than in Hawaii and that the lakes are more breath-taking than the oceans in Maine. I am glad that I now can find beauty in everything.

  26. Der Yang

    This essay helped reminded me of the detailed beauty that I often skip over in my daily living. I tend to tell myself that my life consists of nothing but school, work and friends; which is a perfectly fine schedule. However, if the same schedule or repeatedly occurring, then it may run away from it’s original shine. For the past few days, I have felt as if my relationships on campus have become rather dull and lazy, coming back to the same routine day in and day out. Unlike the natural scenes and colorful images as shared above, I am referring my life to its liveliness and unique events. Yet, I am now only realizing that I am the only one of my peers to feel this way. Therefore, it may be a condition of my personal feelings that I will need to alter to be in a happier state. Thank you Jemma for writing an essay about something else but helping me to be thankful for what is right within my circle!

  27. Caroline Grube

    Seeing the beauty in every little thing is always hard. I also grew up in a small little town surrounded by corn fields with a gas station and a hardware store. It took traveling to northern Minnesota, California, Florida, and Montana for me to really learn to appreciate my little town. I never noticed how beautiful the setting sun looked over our little lake, or how the cotton from the cottonwood trees made it look like it was snowing in the middle of summer. I have learned to look at the small things and find beauty in them. If just to tie my wonder lust over until I am able to see something new.

  28. Hanna McLevish

    We read this is in class, and I thought it was really good! It was really interesting to see how you didn’t see all of the small things around your house until you traveled abroad. I have traveled to France, and it was truly amazing and beautiful. I think it is really important to appreciate the things around us. There is so much beauty in the world that goes unnoticed. Such a good read.

  29. Kalley Friederichs

    Jemma, this was very interesting post. I think we often we become so accustom to what is around us that we forget to take the time to slow down and appreciate it. I am actually from Stillwater, a town you mentioned as a prettier part of the state. Although I do enjoy my small little town on the river I sometimes forget to take the time to explore all Stillwater has to offer and truly appreciate all that it has to offer. Thank you for this post and reminding me to appreciate all the beauty that surrounds us!

  30. Megan Bingham

    We have talking about this in class. We discus the importance of language which had to have been difficult visiting another country. One form of language is art/architecture and it tell so much. It usually helps with nonverbal communication. It may tell us how we should act in that place. I am glad you have started to notice those smaller details. Thanks so much for sharing.

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