I prepare for death by living.” - Bishop John Shelby Spong
As seen on my walk yesterday. 

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.

I love the weather changes as Fall approaches, but even so, it always fills me with anxiety.  

Part of that is that for more than a decade I worked among the homeless population and winter meant that people I knew and loved would die. Literally every winter, someone I knew would die a horrible death, alone and outside. Like an abused dog that will flinch when you move too fast around them, my body began to dread the changing of the leaves, the shortening of the days. I would hold people closer, get more frantic in my preparations for winter, my actions had more life or death consequences.

It did not help that the end of summer coincided with a lull in funding.  Small grassroots nonprofits like I have always worked for survive on holiday giving, and every single decision at the end of summer becomes about holding on until then. It always felt particularly cruel that my work’s most critical period coincided with the lowest point of resources for the year.

And even though I don’t do that sort of front-line work anymore, well, my body keeps the score and it knows that the shorter days and cooler nights mean that the season of death is coming. And it fills me with anxiety.

But I am also a gardener, and so this is also the season where I live now that we prepare to plant trees and shrubs, that we divide our perennials, and that we prepare garden beds to be planted in the spring. It is a joyful time of rest and hope after the harsh summer.

After the hurricane and the holiday, I have a full plate of things to catch up on, and so I had planned to work yesterday afternoon. But the sky was blue and the humidity was low, so my wife and I went to a local bistro we love and sat on their patio and ate lunch, watched the tiny sparrows argue over the crumbs left by other diners, felt the breeze and watched the clouds drift across the sky. When we were done, we sat there a while, just taking it all in.

When we came home, I decided to work “for just a few minutes” on the new vegetable garden beds I am putting in my backyard. I dug and measured and before I knew it, some hours had passed and it was getting dark. As I sat on the bench to rest before going in the house, I watched the birds grabbing the worms in the newly dug soil, saw the butterflies darting among the zinnias, saw the dragonflies hovering and, just before I went in, saw the bats come out from wherever the hide during the day to go on mosquito patrol.

And I felt incredibly safe, and knew – just knew – that it was going to be OK.

Five Beautiful Things

  • 11-year-old Nigerian dancer Anthony Mmesoma Madu lives in a culture that does not encourage boys to dance, and definitely not to do ballet. So it’s a big deal that he was in this viral video, and that he got an international dance scholarship as a result. His face in that video is what joy looks like.
  • Tatsuya Tanakais an artist who works in miniature, and he makes a new miniature every day and posts it to Instagram.
  • Jamaican street musician Brushy One String plays a guitar with, you guessed it, one string. Despite (or maybe because) of that, he makes incredible music. Here he is at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. (via Kottke)
  • These photos of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s archives are amazing, but so is the story behind them.
  • Despite the language barrier, this short (2 minute) film about love and marriage made by 20-year-old Iranian filmmaker Syed Mohammad Reza Kheradmand is beautiful, and it’s  easy to see why it won at the Luxor Film Festival.

Thank you!

As you may have surmised, we survived Hurricane Ida just fine - we lost some tree limbs and had lots of rain, but other than that, it was a normal day. I appreciate all your notes and prayers. Meanwhile, Southern Louisiana is still suffering - please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. 
* * *

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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