Once upon a time, I did work on the front lines of homelessness. I did that work for more than a decade, and along the way I developed some self-care practices that helped keep me sane.
No, that’s not it – they helped keep me alive.
One of them eventually led to this newsletter: My belief that beauty is essential to our survival, and that if you spend your time immersed in ugliness, it is essential to seek the beauty out, to develop a reservoir of it deep within you, to sustain you in the hard times.
The last year and a half has been rough on all of us. It’s been particularly hard on those who do frontline work: Doctors, nurses, EMS workers. And those who work with vulnerable populations, like those experiencing homelessness.
My friend, protégé, and former coworker Blugh was one of those people. I first met her when she was living in a tent and trying to stay sober, and after she had a few sober years under her belt she moved to my neighborhood and eventually came to work at the organization I founded, helping other folks get sober and housed.
Over the last two years she has been a champ, working the front lines, pivoting as the virus changed and mutated, taking the fight for dignity and housing to the woods, to the tents, to the city parks and street corners.
We still talked once a month or so. It made her so happy to know that the work I modeled for her she was passing on to others.
“The work is still happening, Hugh!”
Frontline work is so hard. It was hard even when there wasn’t a global pandemic. Watching the people you love and care about die is excruciating. It wears you down, and if you are prone to depression, it takes out your defenses.
Blugh died this past week. One more loss in almost two years of excruciating loss.
Loving people is hard for many reasons, not the least of which is it opens you up to loss. The only thing harder is not loving them, I think.
Please take care of yourself, folks. And check on your frontline folks. None of them are OK.
Five things I thought were beautiful.
This choral version of Toto’s Africa was marvelous, especially the beginning and end.
I love the artwork of Titian, and I love woodworking. This short video about the making of the gilt frames for the Titians at the National Gallery hit all my happy places. Just the gilding is worth watching.
Photographer Carla Rhodes has stunning photos taken from under her wintertime birdfeeder.
I finished the 30 days of gratitude series last week, and having a 30-day streak of blogging each day, I have leaned into the rhythm and (thus far) kept it up. You can get an email with every single post each Friday, along with some other links that don’t fit in here.
Blugh’s partner set up a fundraiser to help out with expenses at this time. They don’t have much money at all, and it would mean a lot to me if you could pitch in even a few dollars.
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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.
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