"Strong and content I travel the open road." - Walt Whitman
The exquisite view from our motel window. Because the beauty in a trip is something you bring with you, and not dependent upon your geography. 

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.

Last week, my wife and I took a road trip. It should have taken 2 hours and 45 minutes. We made it last for 2 days.

We set out around noon on Friday. We went north on the Natchez Trace, slowly going past scenic vistas and fields covered in wildflowers, herds of cows (there is a roadtrip rule, apparently, that when you pass a herd of cows, at least one of you must alert the others in the car by saying, simply, “Cows”, and pointing to them) and dogwood trees ablaze in the stands of pine trees. As you get closer to Tupelo, the Canola fields are brilliant yellow this time of year, eliciting an audible gasp.

In Tupelo, we stopped for the night in a motel grabbed on Priceline, and set out for their cute downtown. We saw the hardware store that sold Elvis his first guitar (it was a compromise with his aunt – she wanted him to get a bicycle, he wanted a .22 rifle) and the house he was born in. We cruised the town and saw azaleas blooming everywhere, and we ate on the sidewalk of a trendy barbeque joint downtown.

The next morning, we set off for Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi, William Faulkner (and dozens of other writers), and one of the most beautiful towns in the state. We spent most of the day there, where we visited three different bookstores, bought way too many books (is there such a thing?) and ate at City Grocery, an institution in Oxford and a place I regularly ate in my 20’s, when I lived in Memphis and visited Oxford at least monthly. It still is amazing, after all these years.

And around suppertime, we rolled into my hometown, where we ate a large supper on my brother’s patio with my Mom and my siblings. We stayed in yet another Priceline acquired motel, and on Easter Sunday I visited Dad’s grave, and then Renee and I joined at least 5 generations of Hollowell’s for the annual Easter cookout. That night, we headed home by a much more direct route, arriving late at night, exhausted but happy.

This was the first real trip – like, a trip for pleasure – we have been on in over a year, thanks to the pandemic. We still took all reasonable precautions, socially distanced, and were masked in public when not eating, but only felt safe doing it because we were two weeks out from being vaccinated (Thanks Pfizer!).  It wasn’t like any trip I had been on, but felt like a miracle after the last year.

Get vaccinated as soon as you can, if you haven’t already. It is life-changing.

Five Beautiful Things

  • The Atlantic, with photos from all over the world of people getting vaccinated. My wife and I are both more than two weeks out from getting vaccinated, and the shear load of anxiety that has rolled off my shoulders is near indescribable.
  • This Instagram account of animals is way more fun than any description of it would sound.
  • The airport in Brussels has an instillation of Flemish Masters, which in and of itself is amazing, but then a cupid escaped from one of them… This is captivating and amazing, and art in its own right.
  • The Louvre put its entire collection online. The whole thing.
  • The world’s first recorded song on a yahz, a southern Indian instrument that goes back more than 2,000 years.


This week I really enjoyed learning that Robin Dunbar is still writing about friendships - this hits different in a pandemic - and I enjoyed writing this short essay about my Dad's pocketknife, which was first mine, and then his, and now mine again. 

* * *

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.

The best way to support my work is to become a patron. The second best way is to forward this email to someone you think might like it. 

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

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