In this issue: Murmurations of starlings, creepy clowns, and the stories we tell ourselves.
“If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it?”
– Ernst Haas
I found this guy hiding in the comfrey in my yard. 

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.

My apologies for missing you last week. I was on a road trip to visit family and the motel Wi-Fi just wasn’t cutting it.

We have a swing in our front yard, in the shade of our magnolia tree. I built it last year, the first of my pandemic projects. It’s not fancy – some pressure treated wood and a cheap swing I bought on Walmart’s website when Amazon was advertising two-month lead times in spring of 2020. I intend to pave the ground under it with some reclaimed brick that currently sit in a weedy pile in the backyard, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Of all the things I have built and made, it is no doubt the one that gets the most use. I sit in it most days, often in the morning when I get back from my walks. I love to sit and watch the squirrels that live in the magnolia tree as they leap from limb to limb, as they chase the cardinals who are scrounging the seeds from the hanging cones. Lately I also love seeing the monarchs and viceroy butterflies as they enjoy the last of the patch of zinnias I planted for them this spring.

When I was a little boy, there was a couple that went to our church that were relatively wealthy, at least by our communities’ standards. They had a two story log home, they traveled abroad, and they owned nice cars.

And they had a swing on their porch.

As a kid, I loved that thing. I don't really know why, other than the novelty of it. They were the only home I knew with one until I was a teenager, at least. And anytime we went to their house, I would sit and swing on it until I was practically drug off it.

It's funny how the brain works, but somehow, a porch swing and being wealthy conflated, and so to my mind a porch swing was something wealthy people had, just like travel abroad was something wealthy people did.

But that isn’t true. Including the swing itself, I spent maybe $220 to put in that swing and arbor. The zinnia seeds were less than $2.  None of it was expensive.

But things like this are far more often built than used. A friend of ours has a deck they built years ago that they have literally never ate a meal on. It is now at the end of its life, and when we last talked he was saving money to rebuild it, and then he told me about all his plans for the cookouts they would have after the new one was built.

I just nodded supportively, because I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he could have had those cookouts all along, and that it wasn’t his deck that was holding him back.

So many of the things that hold us back from enjoying life right now are just the stories we tell ourselves.

Five Beautiful Things

  • This… I don’t know what to call it… choreography? by Sadeck Waff is amazing. I’ve watched it over and over. Also easy to miss is that the performers are in wheelchairs.
  • Murmurations of starlings never grows old. There is a metaphor here – the larger organism moving as one, but made up of individuals.
  • Two different poems moved me this week: Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris and Having No Certainty by Lisa Creech Bledsoe.
  • A 110-year-old book to be read to children, with cute cat pictures. I feel like the internet was made to share things like this.
  • It’s Halloween this coming weekend, which means this is the perfect time for creepy clowns in a cornfield.

Re: Next Month

I want to tell you about two unrelated things, which I will then tie together.

1) In 2016, I started writing a book about community. It grew out of the work I was doing at the time,  working on the front lines of addiction and homelessness. I got about 2/3rd of the way through it, and then ADHD kicked in and then I fell into a pool of depression and almost died. But the draft is still on my hard drive. And I haven’t known what to do with it.

2) All of my independent writing (such as this newsletter, and my blog, and my other newsletter) is funded by my Patrons, who are awesome. They are also the only way I can afford to do this stuff.

So, next month will be “Get more Patrons so Hugh can keep making cool stuff” month. (The Marketing Department here at World Headquarters is working on a better title.) And in light of that, I will be reworking, editing, and serially releasing chapters of the book for Patrons, most likely weekly.

I may then decide to self-publish the book, as a way of putting a cap on that chapter of my life. I haven’t decided yet.

So anyway, if you are looking for a good reason to become a Patron and support my work, here you go.

* * *

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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