Sometime before the pandemic, Maggie Smith (the poet, not the actor) started posting little snippets on Instagram every day. She was going through a rough time (separating from her husband of 19 years), and was finding it hard to write poetry. So she started just writing . . . a daily affirmation for herself. To remind herself to . . . keep moving. Ultimately, her collection of affirmations came together and became a book, Keep Moving, which was published in 2020.

In Keep Moving, Maggie tells this story . . .

“One morning I looked out the bathroom window and couldn’t believe the sky I saw — banded magenta, aqua, purple. I shouted to the kids, ‘Hurry, look out back!’

My son, who was downstairs, went straight to the back door to see the sunrise. But my daughter came running into the upstairs bathroom.

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.

‘Nothing’s wrong — just a beauty emergency. Look at that sky!’ Because she is my child, she knows what a beauty emergency is: one of those things you have to look at now, before it’s gone.

Sure enough, I looked out the window just a few minutes later and the sky was back to normal, as if that magic painting had never been made. But we’d seen it. We knew that the beauty had happened.”

— Maggie Smith, in Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

I just loved Maggie’s concept of a beauty emergency . . . catching that gone-too-quickly moment of beauty in the world – and acknowledging it.

The term immediately became part of my personal lexicon, and I found myself classifying all kinds of fleeting-moments as beauty emergencies. Often, when I find something lovely out in my garden or on a walk, I feel disappointed if I don’t have my camera at the ready . . . because I want to capture the image for later. Now, though . . . now that I know about beauty emergencies. . . I can just let it be that: A fleeting moment of beauty that I was lucky to see. (Quick! Before it’s gone!)

The term resonated for Tom, too, and it quickly became a call-to-action for us.

We really like to share beauty emergencies with each other now. Lately, it’s been a lot of sunsets. Our west-facing house is built on a hill with a fairly unobstructed view from the front porch, so we are fortunate to see some pretty incredible sunsets. It’s not only sunsets that are beauty emergencies, though. Sometimes it’s something we see in the garden — a bird or other creature. Or a shadow or light pattern. Snow falling. Sometimes it’s just JoJo, doing something silly. Anything at all can be a beauty emergency!

Now that we have a shared term for alerting each other to those fleeting moments of beauty, we’re much more likely to call them out to each other. To notice, to acknowledge, to appreciate. And I find myself much less dependent on my camera, too, which really is freeing.

Give it a try!
Start noticing beauty emergencies in your life.
Share them – or just enjoy them for yourself.

They’re everywhere.
But be quick about it!
(Because they’re fleeting. . .)


If you’re wondering what this “advent calendar” is all about, you can read my “intro” post here.