NB: The formatting of this newsletter is changing up a little today and will change quite a bit over the next few weeks. This is all largely in response to input I got from the Reader’s Survey I had out the last few weeks. I wrote a (long) writeup of the results and what I took from them here. - HH
Today is the first day of spring, and longtime readers know I tend to get a little annoying in the springtime. There are just so many beautiful things in the spring – birds singing, flowers blooming, the bulbs bursting forth, the buds on the trees breaking out.
In that last sentence, there are lots of what my elementary school teacher would have called action verbs – singing, blooming, bursting, breaking. And I think that sums up spring nicely – after a winter of dormancy, suddenly, things are springing (another action verb!) to action!
Much like me in the morning, however, some things spring into action a bit slower than others. My roses and blackberries have little green leaves on them, while my blueberry bushes have flowers and are ready to start fruiting. The birds are chirping in a manic recognition that bugs are waking up and moving about, giving them a full on buffet after a winter diet of berries and birdseed, whereas the other day I moved a piece of wood from the hedgerow along my back fence and found a sluggish Dekay’s Brownsnake, who was not happy to be disturbed and moved as if he needed more caffeine.
Me too, little brownsnake. Me too.
The world is a mass of confusion right now, with wars and viruses and inflation and high fuel costs, but the sun still shines and the birds still sing and the daffodils are still erupting from under the humus built up under the pine trees.
I take a lot of comfort in that.
Five Beautiful Things
On one level, these are just embroidered portraits of cats and dogs. I mean, cute, but, you know. But then I saw this one, and this one, where the animal’s portrait is embroidered on a shirt, as if it is crawling out of the pocket, and now I’m captivated. I don’t think I am the sort of person who would wear a shirt like this, but I want to think that I would.
Nikita Gill is perhaps one of the most famous of the so-called Instapoets – people who primarily find an audience for their poetry through social media. A good example of her work is this Instagram post on Reasons to Live Through the Apocalypse, which was taken from her book of poetry written largely in response to the coronavirus, Where Hope Comes From.
Madagascar’s ancient baobab trees – some of which are more than 1,000 years old, are dying because of the climate crisis. They are massive, squat, and powerful, unlike the majestic height of the sequoias on the west coast of the US. For years, photographer Beth Moon has photographed these beautiful trees, and Colossal has posted some before and after pictures as they crumble and collapse under their own weight as they die from the drought. The photography is lovely: The subject is painful.
Like many kids, I grew up on stories of Peter Rabbit and Mr. MacGregor’s garden. The author of Peter’s adventures, Beatrix Potter, lived in the Lake District of England and placed her stories there. It’s a truly magical place, as you can see for yourself in this beautiful short (10 minute) nature film of the region made for the Beatrix Potter exhibition at the V&A Museum. There’s no commentary or soundtrack other than the sounds of nature itself, so it’s perfect to have on while you are doing other things, but it’s so beautiful don’t be surprised if you just end up staring, slack jawed, for the whole ten minutes. At least, that’s what I did.
This one is on multiple levels: The poem Musée Des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden, who is one of my favorite poets, is good enough for inclusion by itself, especially timely in this time of global suffering. But then Elissa Gabbert did a deep-dive commentary on the poem and the painting it refers to for the New York Times, and then things go to a whole ‘nother level. I loved everything about this. This is probably best viewed on a desktop, rather than phone, for best results. Just keep scrolling down when you get there.
As I mentioned in the headnote today, I did a writeup of my findings from the Reader Survey y’all participated in over the last few weeks – you can find it here – and I just wanted to thank you for your participation and especially all the lovely notes of support, a representative sample of which are at that link.
Y’all are the best, and I’m grateful I get to write for you. Whatever ways you show your support – by being a supporting Patron, by buying me a cup of coffee or by forwarding this letter to your friends and talking it up on social media – however you do it, I’m grateful beyond words. Y’all are the best.
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