In this issue: Life advice from Monk, joyful hummingbirds, and more. 
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. - Soren Kierkegaard
This is a before and after, five years apart, of the fixer-upper where we lived in NC. The fence, the roses, the peach trees, the new siding, new roof - it all took time and the whole time it felt like nothing was being accomplished. 

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.

In my 20’s, I worked in the Financial Services industry, which is a euphemism for saying I was an insurance and securities salesperson. Should you become such a salesperson, I cannot guarantee you financial success, but I can guarantee you will have to sit through gazillions of hours of motivational seminars.

I once heard that the largest purchaser of motivational training was the financial services sector, and the second largest was the US Military, which means it takes more motivation to sell insurance to people than it does to kill them, which also sums up why I no longer do that work.

Anyway, a book I read during that time that, while a bit cheesy, was superbly helpful ever since was Hyrum Smith’s The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management. Smith was the founder of a company that sold day planners, and in this book he laid out the philosophy that underpinned the planner. I no longer use that planner, but I still have and, occasionally, reread the book.

Each “Law” was a chapter, and for a 25-year-old floundering in the world, it gave a direction and structure that was helpful. One thing he said that still resonates with me is that “Results take time to measure”.

That seems self-evident, but we don’t live as if it’s self-evident. I’ve lost 42 pounds since March of this year, but it took 2 weeks for me to lose the first pound, and it was discouraging as can be. Meanwhile Dr. Oz screams at me from the magazine in the supermarket checkout that I can lose 14 pounds in a week if I drink his cleanse (spoiler – you cannot, at least not in any healthy way).

Or we want to have more energy and so we begin to exercise – say, walking or jogging every day. But on day 3 we are sore and achy and feel like crap, so we give up. We need to save for retirement and after three years of diligently putting money in our IRA we see that if we retired tomorrow we would be set for… *checks notes*… 8 days.

Results take time to measure.

I’m mainly talking to myself right now, because I’ve been frustrated with my progress in a lot of areas right now. My yard isn’t where I want it to be, and this year I worked really hard on it. My weight loss is slow. The new newsletter is not growing as fast as I would like. The writing project I’m working on is moving slower than I had planned.

But, I will get there. Between the before and after pictures of our house up there, on any given day, it didn’t look like the after. It looked like it was in progress.

I don’t know if you needed to hear this today or not, but I did: I’m not done yet. I’m just in progress. And results take time to measure.

Five Beautiful Things

  • Check out this Flickr archive of book covers from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. This is such an awesome collection, and hits all of my happy spots. (H/T to Mark Frauenfelder)
  • A garden project I’m working on for next spring is a bubbling birdbath for the birds in our front yard, so I’m spending way too much time on YouTube and Pinterest.  But check out the sheer joy these hummingbirds get from this birdbath and you may understand more why I want one of these.
  • Music (and life!) advice from the one and only Thelonious Monk.
  • I love John Coltrane, but I had never seen this live performance of My Favorite Things, done in Belgium in 1965, when he was at the height of his powers. It is sheer genius.
  • A quilt, inspired by the famous rose window at the Notre Dame in Paris. The intricacy and pains that went into this is staggering.


Longtime readers know that last October, almost a year ago now, my Dad died from COVID-19. He was a First Responder and died before the vaccines were released. The hell of it was that he has been set to retire in June, but put it off because he didn’t think he could ethically leave in the midst of a pandemic.

Earlier this year our hometown’s Chamber of Commerce awarded him a posthumous award for recognition of his work during the pandemic, and I was asked to write the nomination letter. Because of Covid, he didn’t have the funeral he deserved, and that means I didn’t get to eulogize him, so this is as close as I’ve come. It’s my favorite thing I have written in years, and some folks say the best thing I have written in years, and I wanted to share it with you.

Hug the people you love. Get vaccinated if you can, and if you haven't. I’m so damn tired of all the loss.

* * *

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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