In this issue: The friendship hack, volcanos, and colors!
"Love is the only antidote to fear." - John O'Donohue

We don't get the extreme fall colors here in Mississippi they get up north. This is from my walk yesterday. The muted colors and occasional bursts of yellows and reds make me happy, though. 

Good morning!

I am Hugh Hollowell, and this is Life is So Beautiful, a newsletter about finding the beautiful when it's hard to - and maybe especially when it's hard to.

Today is my friend Abby’s birthday. 

We met in 2008 at a social media meetup in Raleigh, MC. We would run into each other after that, and we had a few mutual friends and frequented the same coffee shops, and so we would sometimes chat, and of course, we followed each other on Facebook and Twitter and Flickr and all the places.

She is a psychologist and needed to write reports every week. I was doing a content heavy blog and newsletter at the time, and needed to write a lot every week. And because she does ADHD coaching and is cool like that, she realized that if we met up each week for lunch and then a few hours of parallel writing (like, we are both in the same place, but working on our own things) we would be more likely to do it than if we just committed to ourselves to do it.

So we did. Starting at the end of 2010, we met for lunch every Tuesday at noon, and the plan was to then write until 2PM. And we did that for about 2 years, and I got a lot of writing done. But the lunch was the important thing (after all, this is a newsletter about beauty, not productivity) so soon the writing stopped, but the lunch continued until I moved away in June of 2018.

I would joke that I was having lunch with my psychologist and she was having lunch with her pastor, but the real reason it worked was that I wasn’t her pastor, and she wasn’t my psychologist. We were just friends, and sometime she was able to help me in my work and sometimes I was able to help her, (because that is what friends do!) but overall, we just walked together through life.

So, here’s the hack: Important things get scheduled. We met every week because it went on our calendar, and we protected that appointment. And because we met every week, we didn’t have to cram all the things into the time we met. And then it was natural to text her and say, “Remind me Tuesday to tell you about X”. And she would then text me and say, “Here is that article I was telling you about Tuesday”.

And because relationship is built by a series of small “touches”, we became really close friends.

And that, friends, is my friend-making hack. That I learned from Abby.

Five Beautiful Things

  • I often don’t share things because I am sure everyone knows about it, but I have spoken to a couple of people this week who had no idea who have never read David Sedaris, and, tragically, had never heard of The Santaland Diaries or even heard the famous NPR broadcast. You should totally listen to this clip from This American Life. It’s one of my holiday traditions.
  • Tamas is a Croatian photographer, and his Instagram feed is an explosion of color – I especially love his most recent work with waterfalls, like this one.
  • This drone footage of an erupting volcano in Iceland is awe-inspiring, in the true sense of the word. (The music is a bit annoying, and covers the much cooler sound of the lava cracking. Sadly, the ability to score video and the ability to edit video seldom seem to coexist in the human species.)
  • Here is a roundup of winners from AAP Magazine’s latest photo contest, where the theme is “Colors”. These hit me in the right place.
  • Musician Andy Thorn was at home in Colorado, practicing his banjo, when he was visited by a fox, who sat down to enjoy the show! Apparently, this is a regular occurrence, as I also found this footage of Mr. Fox enjoying Andy’s guitar picking. (As an aside – I wish I had views like that at my house!)


I am continuing to post my 30 Days of Gratitude to my blog, where each day I write a story about something I’m thankful for. This is much more challenging (AND more gratifying) for me than I had anticipated it would be.

As the world of Internet publishing consolidates and changes, it becomes harder and harder to put out good content in a way that doesn’t either force you to sell out what you are trying to achieve, or else sell your reader’s data to somebody else. I believe in supporting the things I want to see in the world – if you would like to see more things like this and can swing the $3 a month, I hope you will consider signing up to be a patron. And if you can’t swing it – it’s no big deal. We got you. Seriously. I’m just glad you are here.

* * *

Well, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great week, and that your life is filled with beautiful things. If you see something beautiful this week, I hope you will let me know about it, and if one of my five I shared today struck you in a special way, I hope you will let me know about that, too.

If you want to support this project, you can sign up to be a Patron or buy me a book or throw me some cash or, especially, forward this email to your friends. And if someone did forward this to you, you can get your own subscription here.

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

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