A Beauty Collected
In a time when mother nature seems to be slipping away from us, author Rachel Garahan, chooses to bring it back into focus. Her book, A Beauty Collected, reveals the magic and simplicity of the natural world, but put together in a way that is attuned to our modern eyes. I wonder to myself, when did we begin to lose interest in the world around us? Is losing nature an illusion? Are we destined to be inquisitive? Or do we have to rekindle this flame on a regular basis?
Without having to even step outside, Garahan brings it to life for us, in the form of a gorgeous book that is so approachable and educational. She uses classic children’s book style writing (think Dr. Seuss meets outdoor enthusiast) with clever rhymes and simple phrases like, “A is for Aloe, to soothe and to heal, and Artichoke, leaf-by-lead peel or Berries, ripe in the summer sun." We just learned the main health component to aloe, the structure of the artichoke and the main season that berries grow in -- this is just good basic natural knowledge we can all cary with us as a guide. It's almost as if she has created a beautiful yet safe space for us to relearn about our home.
Garahan is calling us forth to not only admire but to ask questions, listen, feel and learn from nature’s great teachers. I could not think of a more necessary message or all of us to hear at this time — that we must reconnect and attune to the life that breathes alongside us.
Next to a giant oak, we do not feel small, but protected and known, by the deepest parts of us.
Q&A with Rachel Garahan, author of A Beauty Collected
Q: What is A Beauty Collected and why did you choose to create it?
A: A Beauty Collected is an opportunity to be curious, creative and connected with the world around us. I’m greatly inspired by Georgia O’Keefe, who once said: "Everyone has many associations with a flower. You put out your hand to touch it, or lean forward to smell it, or maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking, or give it to someone to please them. But one rarely takes the time to really see a flower. I have painted what each flower is to me and I have painted it big enough so that others would see what I see.”
In this same way, I created A Beauty Collected as a way for people of all ages to really slow down and appreciate the beauty around us. To maybe notice things in a way they have not before. Children in particular are innately fascinated with the world, but that wonder can be lost if it’s not nurtured. A Beauty Collected is my way of offering the idea that nature, in its most magical or mundane form, has value and beauty.
Q: How did you go about choosing the objects in the book?
A: I started with the ones that have most personal meaning to me- lilacs from my childhood in Vermont, frangipani from when I lived in Australia, creosote from Arizona and jasmine for Venice. I then added in items that are visually intriguing, like honeycomb and passionfruit, along with words that are fun to say like rambutan, kumquat and ylang ylang. It was important to me that I included some “wierd" things like bones and tentacles mixed in with items like rotten apples and dead flowers to illustrate the reality of our world. It’s not all pink flowers and rainbows!
Q: Describe a day in the life for you?
A: Every day is different, and that’s what excites me most. At the moment I’m in Mom mode most of the time, but in between baby classes, the park and generally running after my 1 year old, I try make time for introspection, creative work, at least one really nourishing and satisfying meal (as opposed to just eating on the run) and togetherness with my husband. That’s about as much as each day has in common!
Q: You name quite a few herbs in the book. How often do you use herbs in your own life? What are some of your favorites?
A: Aside from their medicinal benefits, fresh herbs are the most magical ingredients to me as they have the ability to transform and elevate even the most simple and humble ingredients. Fried sage butter or lavender lemonade are just a few examples of what I mean. I use fresh herbs daily and dried herbs rarely. We used herbs as centerpieces at our wedding, and while we wait for our first home to appear, I dream about filling the yard with an abundance of wild, fragrant all-edible plants. I’d say basil and mint are my favorites but I also love lemon verbena, tarragon, chive blossom and oregano.
Q: How connected to you feel to the natural world and can you describe that feeling to us?
A: My connection to the natural world is everything, and most of my life is committed to making sure that connection remains strong. With it, I feel grounded, centered, tuned in, and reminded that my humanness is so small in the scope of the universe. When I sleep under the full moon I feel creatively high. When I soak in hot mineral springs or swim in cool lakes I feel my heart burst open, exhausted in the best way, and young. When I eat fresh bright foods I feel alive. When I stand in the warm wind I feel free.
Q: What are some of your favorite mindfulness practices?
A: A simple body scan does wonders for me. It’s as easy as focusing and relaxing every part of my body from my eyelashes to my fingernails to the soles of my feet. That’s how I tune into my body.
When I want to tune in to my surroundings I go through the senses, often in a journal, or on a postcard if I’m traveling. What do I see? What do I hear? What I smell? What have I tasted recently? What have I touched recently? And most importantly, how do I feel in this place? Doing this is a really lovely practice I made up on my first international trip and I’ve been using it ever since.
Q: What is your big romantic vision for this book?
A: For A Beauty Collected to be the classic book every family wants to have in their home. For it to inspire a generation of people who care about the earth they live on. For readers to see the world differently than they did before.
Q: What makes for a super life?
A: Water, sunshine, good friends and good food.
Rachel Garahan is an art director, creative consultant and author of A Beauty Collected, a picture book inspiring people of all ages to connect with the beauty found in nature.
Through her professional practice, RachelGarahan.com, personal blog One Part Gypsy, or anywhere conversation strikes, strangers and friends alike come to Rachel for her infectious creative energy, knack for marketable ideas, practical work/life strategies and experimental attitude toward whole living. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs in Ojai, California.