“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.”
– Naguib Mahfouz

The magnolia tree in my front yard is filling up with the huge blooms that perfume the air. 

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.

This past week I met someone new, and they asked how I made a living. I relied with my usual mishmash list of categories – nonprofit director, pastor, writer, craftsman, consultant – and they then asked about my writing.

“Do you write books?”

Most of my paid writing for the last few years has been done here. I have written for publication before, with chapters in books and articles in magazines and newspapers. I was a few days before signing a book contract once when the publisher went bankrupt – there is probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

But lately my writing has been here. Partly because of the subject matter – after years of trauma and burnout, I need to talk about beauty more. Partly because of the discipline that comes with a weekly schedule. But mostly, it’s because this form of writing is relational. Every single issue, people reply and tell me things they liked (or didn’t!) about what I shared, people forward these missives to their friends, they send me items to look at. At least three of you (that I don’t know from any other context) sent me physical holiday cards last year.

This form of relational writing is immensely enjoyable to me, and it makes financial sense. When I set up my Patreon account, it was because I did the math and realized I could spend a year writing a book that would most likely make me less than $5,000. We live too close to the bone for that sort of investment in a book to sit on the shelf to make sense.

Instead, I built a small community of folks who appreciated my writing and work, and asked them to fund that writing and work. I am not getting rich over here, but it works out, after expenses, to making about the same from my writing as publishing a book every year, but without chasing down publishers, looking for agents, endless edits, and the marketing every single author is forced to do these days.  It also buys me the freedom to experiment, like the podcast and second newsletter I launched and then closed last year. And one day, it might fund my publishing a book after all.

But right now, I love sharing the beautiful things I find in the world and I love that some of you think there is enough value in that project that you kick in a few dollars a month to make it possible for me to keep doing it. I love being forced – by the schedule and my commitment to you and by dint of the fact that I am paid to do it – to search for beautiful things in a world that all too often seems only to highlight the horrors around us.

And I love that you love reading it. Thank you for making this project possible, whether by your patronage, your sharing, or just your opening the email and reading it. Your readership means more to me than any dusty book on a shelf possibly could.  

Five Beautiful Things

  • Master juggler Michael Moschen juggles inside a giant triangle. This is fascinating and almost unbelievable. The balls make a noise that is almost musical, and the hand to eye coordination to pull this off must be off the charts.
  • Researchers have shown that the sounds of nature can be restorative, doing things like lowering your blood pressure and reducing your measured stress. This article goes into detail, and this audio file of birds chirping over a bubbling brook is lovely.
  • Many of you know I love woodcarving, so maybe it’s a bit niche, but I loved this short video – a sort of documentary, really -  of Martin Wenham and his letter carving.
  • Not everyone will love this, but here is Abba’s Dancing Queen, played on a 100-year-old organ. This is joy for me.
  • The winners in the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards have been announced, and here are some of the top entries. I love these so much.


I have recently been on a crime fiction binge, and recently discovered the writing of Ann Cleeves. She wrote the books that the TV shows Shetland and Vera are based on, but she is more than that. I love it when an author I discover has a huge backlist – it gives me reading for months. If you like UK mysteries, this is right up your alley.

* * *

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

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

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