Beauty from brokenness

Posted by on February 12, 2012

Our Navajo guide deserted us just moments after he pointed us into a crack in the earth and down the steep stairs to the bottom of Antelope Canyon, a corkscrew slot in the desert floor not far from Lake Powell, Arizona. From above, one would never guess what lay beneath.

Antelope Canyon is a magical quarter mile long, 120’ deep sliver scoured by rushing water within Navajo Nation lands. While surprised to be abandoned, I was just as happy, as this allowed me to explore this silent underground cathedral at my leisure.  I held back, letting the group move on without me, the echo of their voices becoming faint.

Inside, striations of sandstone play with the filtered light, creating a shifting palette of soft colors evoking reverence and awe. Like the transformation of light through fragments of stained and broken glass in a church.

I’m always humbled by the manner in which the Master Artist repeats natural designs: from the tiny fractals evident in delicate ferns to the many ways that water brushes its fingers along stone, caressing it into eddies and ripples and swirls imprinted for a millennia. Weaving amongst these gentle, water-carved walls, I felt cocooned and embraced within the waves of the sea.

I have struggled with the meaning of this memory of Antelope Canyon, trying to understand why it visits me time and time again…what these images of water, earth and light have to teach me.

I have come to this, whether it be true or grasping:  I’ve entered my own hidden places in recent months, dropping lower and lower through the layers that my years have laid around me. And in that place, I’ve wandered the stripped down corridors of self, searching for origins….tracing the tiny breaks that grew, over time, to canyons of fear and doubt, of spite and loss, of judgment and sorrow.

“I believe in the beauty of all things broken.”
~Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.

But in this time alone, I began to accept and appreciate these grooves and furrows, to see how they shaped and brought colour to my life.  Although these fissures have sometimes caused me to hurt others or myself, I have come to understand that each of them has value; each break comes with blessing, with its own contribution to the texture of a soul forgiven and  renewed.  Only then, could I begin to understand how God’s love washes through, softening the rough edges. How, viewed from within, His light illuminates the grain and design I could not see from outside.

Why is it that we feel compelled to strive for perfection?  Why are we reluctant to accept that true beauty is only crafted from brokenness?

That when we hide from our broken places – when we refuse to descend into them – we cheat ourselves of understanding the beauty created from them.  We miss finding the ways in which the deepest, most shattered parts of ourselves can also be the most cherished. How they lift us from the ordinary.

I dreamed, not long ago, of entering a mountain…of drifting in on the current of a river…then walking corridors of stone, of fearlessly reaching into a crevasse of darkness, then of tracing rugged walls illuminated with diffused light. I emerged some time later and, from afar, I watched myself stride the narrow cobbled streets of an ancient city carved into the side of the mountain. I was wearing red shoes.


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

15 Valued Thoughts on Beauty from brokenness

  1. Rhonda Bulmer

    Wow, awe-inspiring photos! On a lighter note, I don’t know what this says about me, but when I look at them, I see big ol’ hunks of chocolate…

  2. Elephant's Eye

    Lost in your verbal images of waves and water, I was disconcerted to see the cup lined with a base of windblown sand. And yes what enticingly edible colours!

    • Deborah Carr

      Diana, my first thought was that the little puddle of sand was a blown-out part of the image…then I also realized what it was.

  3. Ceci Flanagan-Snow

    Beautiful images: both verbal and visual.

  4. deb

    I have no words for the photos Deb.

    Was just reading some words of May Sarton today… ‘ every birth is bloody’

  5. Carol Steel

    The photos are incredible, evocative, touching something so basic inside of me. I appreciate where your mind and dreams went with the experience and images. You have been going into e.e cummings’ …the serious steep darkness searching for the light. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself.

    • Deborah Carr

      Thank you, Carol. While walking through, I couldn’t help but wonder about all that has taken place within the walls. Then I imagined what it felt like to be the first human to see it.

  6. leslie

    thank you for this. for the otherworldly beauty of the images; and the words you wove together to describe your journey. my daughter is a writer – she is still so young, yet traveling a similar road, i think – much of her life has been lived under the shifting shadows of my illness and there is a lot to work through… i read this to her today. (she gave me permission to share this with you.)

    and thank you for praying for our young friend hannah. thank you so much.

  7. Jeanne Damoff

    Yes, yes, yes. Beauty from brokenness. And these photos! Glorious. Thank you so much.

  8. Jane Tims

    HI. What an adventure!! Your first couple of photos really show the miracle of difference between the surface and what is ‘beneath’. I love the metaphor of reaching deeply into your own thoughts and origins. Jane

  9. Carolynn

    Oh my!

  10. John

    Nice images, Deb. Looks like you’re having a great time down south.

  11. Gwen Buchanan

    Spectacular beauty Deborah! form, line, shadow… full of awe.

  12. Diane photographs ...

    GOsh, my mind is swirling with thoughts and ponderings. Thank you for sharing your deep emotions and parts of your vulnerable self. The images first caught me like a gust of wind on a mountaintop. But your words steady me.

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