Someone complimented my shoes.

We aren’t back to normal. We must continue to be cautious and perhaps, we’ve adjusted.

I packed my red Timbuktu work bag this morning to come to the office for the first time in five months. I needed a wet rag to wipe off the dust that had accumulated as it sat in the corner waiting to be carried again.

As I drove to the office, I noticed a mom and a toddler watching big, construction orange diggers in the new housing development nearby. Music played on the car radio. I haven’t heard new tunes because my commute went from thirty minutes north to four stairs descending into a room where the light shines through basement windows.

While waiting for my turn at a stop sign, and noticed a shaggy golden retriever sticking it’s head out the window of a yellow Volkswagon beetle.

Turning in to the parking lot, vacancies beckoned. Once difficult to find a place to leave my car, I scooted in to an open spot with no trouble at all.

Putting on my mask, I juggled a work bag and a floral lunch box I purchased in March, and keyed in the code to our office. It feels good to be back.

And still, I sit in the conference room by myself, co-workers still at their homes. The silence no longer bothers me. Clicking of keys keep me company.

Crossing the courtyard, I went to purchase an iced coffee. As I waited in line, a kind man standing six feet behind me complimented my shoes.

“I like the snake skin,” he said grinning.

“Thanks,” I replied. ” I haven’t worked outside of my house for seven months. It was time to bring out the fancy shoes.”

I know people are living their lives to various degrees. Some are traveling, going back to offices, and trying to adapt as safely as possible. Others are home and waiting and wondering, or perhaps turning more content to the slower rhythms of corona life. Parents are teaching, teachers are parenting, and we’re all doing the best we can.

This morning I noticed the ordinary. A toddler in awe, a dog breathing in the Colorado air tainted with smoke. Someone complimented my shoes. I haven’t worn shoes with a heel in months.

Life is still here. It just looks a little bit different. Receiving compliments from strangers is a beautiful thing.

World’s On Fire

The spruce trees sheltering my childhood camping outings burn up into plumes, wandering far from their roots.

Pine needles turn white. Ashes fall.

Landing lightly, the burned remnants smear black, dirty, and dark on parking lots full of cars with nowhere to go.

Hours later wind blows and temperatures drop. Snow falls. Wet, slushy sleet sent to sizzle the flames.

As skies turn from purple haze to a pre-mature, wintery, orange reflection of light, so does my anxious spirit waiting to be extinguished. The world seems aflame.

Embers and ice crystals.

Both exist.

Both forces can’t act alone. When one ember sparks into two, then four, then thousands, destruction magnifies. Same is true of heavy snow.

What will you spark? Will your power magnify to destroy or bring solace? Will you roar loudly or float, spit, or soak, calming and cooling our furious hearts? What can you extinguish to make the world a more beautiful place?

You have a choice. A beautiful thing.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

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In the Unfolding Future

For the first time in over a year, I spent a full day in the home I grew up in. There have been multiple reasons for my absence. Changes in caregivers and in family situations. I’m trying to negotiate being an adult woman with a house of my own. A pandemic lurks, placing tentacles of fear and suckers of joy on the cracked cement steps.

As I stood at the front door this weekend, I realized my key no longer has a place to work. The lock had been replaced with an electronic key pad. I rang the bell, and the big dog began to bark. Upon answering the door, my mom repeated the numeric code I needed to get access. It’s not as if I was kept out intentionally. I thought I put the pattern in my phone. Apparently not.

We had spent thirty dollars to stand in a field under a blue sky made silver with smoke. Returning again to the community farm, we took scissors to stems and snipped bloom after bloom, placing our finds in a large, round bucket.

We had gathered armfuls of greens, daisies, dahlias, and delicate flowers to collect into vases and mason jars. We returned home to do our work, walking through the front room on worn wooden floors to approach the table that sustained me. While we shredded leaves and clustered our collections, my mom and I caught up on stalled-life and our slow summers.

It has been almost five years since I sat in the same place, in the tall oak chair frame my dad built in the garage, disassembling arrangements sent for his funeral. The scratchy chair pad nibbled the backs of my thighs saying, ‘I may be worn, but I’m still here, too.’

Some heart ache challenges simply must be tended to from the kitchen tables of our youth.

I’ve healed, wept, and morphed over the last few years. I suppose, if we’re paying attention, we all do. What I hadn’t realized before this weekend was, just as every day is given a new, so too is my grief.

Dad isn’t here for this moment. Or the one that just passed. Nor will he be here for the ones unfolding as this sentence continues. I didn’t realize I will continue to grieve in the unfolding future. The every day ache is not debilitating, but it demands attention. When grief gets neglected, my soul gets hard.

I moved from the kitchen table, to the arm chair in the study, and still our conversation continued.

As noon turned into early evening, I kept wishing Dad would walk through the garage door. Couldn’t he be home from work or an outing at the hardware store? Perhaps he would have brought us a treat.

The door never opened. Instead, I walked out through the front.

I brought the bouquets to my new home. As I placed one vase after the other in rooms where I sit these days, I wondered if flowers can be seen as friends. I’m working from home without companionship now, as my husband returned to a socially distanced office armed with hand-sanitizer and a closing glass door.

The flowers keep me company. I’ve surrounding myself with beauty and scent and bursts of color to bolster me while he’s away. The refrigerator hums and my fingers click on the keyboard. I play classical music to keep my anxiety at bay.

For Dad’s not here now, in the next moment, or at the end of this sentence. I’ve learned I get to miss Him still, as the adult I’m becoming in my own home. I draw up familiar lessons of comfort. Memories of past greetings from the wide-open garage door nibble into me like bites left from worn, knitted, chair cushions.

Now, instead, I wait for my husband to return from his office to walk in our blue front door and I miss Him. And that, is a beautiful thing.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

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Turned Inside Out

After six months at home with limited social interactions, I didn’t think I could look much further inward.

Inward is where I’ve been living – perhaps for the last four years. Grief turned me so inward, I turned inside out.  Insides exposed – skin raw, even still. Prickling with the constant bombardment of suffering, of loss, of what it means to have tugging skin as your wounds heal and re-arrange. After four years, I was ready to get out into the world again. And then a pandemic hit.

With news cycles imploding on the hour, and violence bursting across our country, I’m tempted to turn off my phone and close my eyes.

Tuning out is privilege. Turning things off is a choice.

I thought about changing my Facebook cover photo to this Fauci quote earlier this week.

care

I stopped myself because I don’t feel social media is the place to change minds. Perhaps blogs posts aren’t either. We’re pretty set in our ways and discourse fails in comment threads, when we can’t make eye contact, or place a warm hand of understanding on the fingers of someone we disagree with. Most of the time, our friends nod in agreement when we share our thoughts on how the world could be and for whom.

But, as I continually click reload on news browsers and watch brave protestors, athletes, artists, and individuals address the hurt and pain of others across the nation, Fauci’s quote keeps giving me pause.

How do we knock on closed-off hearts? How do we whisper to those living in extremism? How do we share kindness to people who are different than us?

I have a hard time feeling angry with wealthy people who choose not to share their resources. I live in a working class neighborhood. With every Trump flag popping up on lawns across the street, I hesitate to display my proudly purchased Biden-Kamala sticker. My Christian roots bristle at Evangelical narratives,  withdrawing to find different sources of spiritual thirst quenching. I struggle to embrace the differing opinions of relatives spread across the country.

I said I wouldn’t get political and well, here we are. Everything feels political. Our clashing values create rifts like canyons – pulling us apart from where we used to stand in agreement.

We’re living in fear of those who are different than us. Fear of those who think or look or value different things. Fear of expressing what we really think. Fear of having something taken, or distributed differently, fear of lack of control. Fear of, once again, being unseen.

And somehow, we’ve gotten so sidetracked, that caring for a human life feels radical.

So, I pick up a pen and write postcards to old friends. I text the people who seem to have forgotten me in the course of loss. I go to my garden and I water the plants growing in my tiny patch of dirt. I give money. I pray. I set down the phone. I circle back to my tiny sphere and I keep at the searching for good. I cheer for the protestors. I buy local and support small business owners. I wear a mask. I get ready to vote. I stay home and I keep looking inward.

Maybe, as a nation, we’re getting turned inside out?

How do we remind each other we need to care? Do you care deeply about our impact on the planet, our country, our neighborhood, our streets, on the children who look different than you? What about those who have lived and lost and are hurting? What about those without support networks? What about those whose kids are in literal cages? What about those innocent ones getting shot in the street?

We need to care. And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Excavating

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Tearing the pages feels wrong. Marking others words with ink to communicate new things, a little risky yes? But what beauty can be found in the excavating. Not only the job of the editor. After receiving an excess of old books for my little library, I’ve decided to reclaim messages of hope and restoration in the words of others. Send me a page number and I’ll send you a poem from that page in the mail. Send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com or DM on Instagram.

Together, we can help the post office and find some beauty in old stories and traditions.

Donations accepted here.

Groan Tubes

Remember? About twelve inches long, cylindrical, brightly colored. You’d find them on the shelves in toy shops and as prizes when playing carnival games. I remember exchanging tickets for the annoying noise makers later left behind in back seats.

 

I relate to the little weight, pulled down into a groan by gravity.

The rollercoaster of pandemic emotions pulls me down from the crest, and as I descend down the tracks, I realized I’ve forgotten to raise my hands. We aren’t screaming in excitement.

It takes more energy and focus to live in joy right now. I have to be intentional in saying yes to following what I want to safely participate in.

On Saturday, our Colorado blue skies were peppered with plumes of smoke from the forest fires near by. I woke early, determined to follow through on a reservation I made to go pick strawberries at a local farm.

Standing out in a field, far from others, I picked ripening berries, and snipped stems to fill my bucket with sweet smelling fruit.

“This is so fun!” I said to Dylan, realizing it was the first time we’d been around others for more than fifteen minutes at a time.

An outdoor activity had turned my tube upside down, groans going up into smiles. We came home and I arranged flowers and popped fresh fruit right into my mouth.

We’ve kept our windows shut this week. Smoke is heavy and the AC is on, and fresh air is tainted with the knowledge that the mountains I grew up in are burning.

I woke this morning – sadness touching my heart with soft fingertips. It’s my husband’s birthday. We don’t have plans. I’m trying to prepare a special dinner and I know, another meal, just the two of us, will unfold without much to say because we only interact with each other.

The weight slides back down.

I have to honor the tender spaces created by the wishing what is, isn’t.

Tonight, we’ll make cannoli and watch a favorite show. We’ll celebrate another year here on earth and toast to what’s next. And we’ll miss those who aren’t around the table. We’ll keep the windows closed.

We’re taking things moment by moment here.

Honoring the missing. Wondering and waiting and remembering that at some point, we’ve got to tilt the silly stick back, right side up. Perhaps that’s a beautiful thing.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

If you like what you’ve read, please share the piece with a friend.

Ease?

“Let it be easy.

Let it be easy.

Let it be easy.

Whatever it is.

Try that on in your spirit.

Get curious about it. “

Tara-Nicholle Nelson

We’re struggling on a collective level right now, yes. But what if it could be different? What if it could be easy? Tara-Nicholle’s blog post has been fuel for me this week. A refreshing reminder. Not every decision must make our stomachs church. If we change our energy and our expectations for ourselves, can we live with more ease?

Ease in standing at the cold counter, pressing the metal spoon into the warm red cherries, bursting with juice as their pits are removed.

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Ease in sitting outside sipping on sparkling water in the heat.

Ease in the wondering how long this will last.

Ease in watching hoards of grasshoppers invade my garden.

Ease in flipping pages of yet another book to be read.

Ease in accepting the unraveling, noting the pile of yarn of what we thought this year would look like pooling at my feet.

I’m not getting anywhere by forcing things nor by clenching nor holding my breath under my mask, afraid to be in public.

What if ease is our beautiful thing?

Read Tara Nicholle Nelson’s full blog post here. 

Micro-Connections

We’ve lived in this blue house for five years now. We’ve painted, and added tile. The inside morphed and changed to our liking.

Not until this summer, however, have we met those who live next door.

Covid forced us out of our quarters and into the streets. I now know the names of those living to the left and the right. The shy boys across the pavement yell, “Hi Dylan!” when we work on projects in the driveway.

I’ve shared banana bread and half-loaves of sourdough and found chocolate cookies tucked under our front mat.

Perhaps community is possible with the once-strangers who dwell closer than most.

This week we installed my favorite summer project thus far. Our free little library is open for business.

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We’ve had teenagers ring our doorbell asking if they can put books in the box. The same shy boys told me they need to pick out a few of their favorites to contribute. Another single guy asked if he can bring the books his ex used to read.

“They’re books for females” he said. “I have hundreds.”

I told him to maybe pick just a few.

Upon returning from our evening walk, I peeked in the glass window to see what new additions emerged.

I found this and laughed out loud.

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We may be standing across streets and waving six-feet apart. But the virus is keeping us home, and we’re playing in the streets, and we’re sharing baked goods, and building micro-connections to carry us forward.

And that is a beautiful thing.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

If you like what you’ve read, please share the piece with a friend.

A Little Bit on Numbers

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Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

*Trigger warning* – Mentions sexual assault

I remember the first time the connection between the numbers in my text books fused with the actual people generating the data in my brain.

I was a senior in college waiting for my friend from Sociology class to come over to work on a group project. She was late. Her text buzzed in, letting me know she wasn’t going to be able to come over. She’d fill me in when we could be together again, in person.

I don’t remember when she showed up at my door – maybe later in the evening – maybe a few days later. I do remember the tears in her eyes, and the way the gray carpet blurred when she told me why she missed our meeting.

I remember walking to campus and holding her hand. I remember sitting in straight-backed oak chairs with the kind professor who listened, and gasped as she accepted my friend’s truth. My friend was raped the weekend before.

Our connection doesn’t go much past this recollection. I wish I could say I did more. I didn’t follow up after graduation. I held a small portion of the truth for her and created space.  I know her experience became a police report and she became a number in a file of sexual assaults on young females in 2011.

This is not the place to blame, or shame, or dissect cause and effect. I share this story because it helped me realize for every single model and number on a page exists a real human.

I am not comparing number of incidents of rape to the numbers of people being infected by the coronavirus. Rather, this is a reminder to think of the reports and predictions informing decisions during this pandemic. I’m not an expert and I know we all are doing the best we can.

But please remember, for each number, statistic, risk factor and odds exists these:

Loved ones.

College prospects.

Best friends.

Scared teachers.

Caregivers.

Cancer patients.

Pro-athletes.

Grandparents.

Elementary-school children.

These numbers will be in text books.

So, please, the next time you spout numbers or note previous studies, or look at models and statistics predicting human behavior and future loss of life, remember this: for each number exists a human.

For each number exists a story.

For each number exists a future.

We’ve got to fuse connections between our individual choices and the patterns our children will study in print or whatever futuristic ink they’ll read.

You are a number.

We can’t escape risk and we can choose love. We can choose to protect and pivot and wait. We can choose to care and give money and wear masks.

I tire of filling my glass half full. It’s not always rosy. Stop spouting statistics as excuses. What if those numbers were your people? Maybe they already are.

Can we be more compassionate to all of us, living through history now?

You get to use your number well.  I hope that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Not Much to Report

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash

By the end of the week, it’s easy to ignore the nudging whisper my creative spirit sends to my fingers. “You haven’t used your powers,” she echoes, “to use your words for something other than emails.”

My energy gets absorbed into the little keys for things demanding attention all week long. Any extra, left-over effort wonders how to type or draft or craft to contribute during this time.  Many attempts to focus on the good feel aimless – like little helicopters that fall from maple leaves in autumn. I keep throwing the whirls into the air and they spin and spin. No matter how many times I throw them up, they fall and continue to land at my feet, just like last time.

Will the cadence of my pushing fingers stringing words together echo out beyond this tiny home office? Will one whirly-gig plant catch wind and travel beyond my back yard?

I didn’t write last week because I felt I had nothing much to report.

Writer Mari Andrew reminded me, in an Instagram featured interview, how lucky I am for this statement to be true. Nothing to report means my people are healthy, we’re employed, we’re spending our days on Zoom meetings and wondering when we can venture out.

Nothing to report means we’re a little bored.

What a privilege it is to be a little bored.

I take a deep breath and lion’s breath away the urge to type CNN.com into my browser because I know the world isn’t in such a state.

There’s too much to report.

Brave journalists continue to unpack the truth and challenge the lies or contradictions we’re being fed. Asinine politicians keep making horrific decisions leaving us every-day contributors in a constant state of worry.

Once again it feels a bit self-indulgent to be focusing on the small things, when the big things the world reports are so-damn-heavy.

With nothing to report here and lots to report out there, I wonder what chemical reaction can occur when we mix ordinary gratitude with catastrophic loss and the magnitude of complex decision making.

How will the flakes of salt I’ve sprinkled on home-grown tomatoes influence the healing of the sick, or change minds of stubborn folks stuck in their individualistic, out-dated methodologies? I’m not sure.

Can the aromatics of fresh pizza dough encourage billionaires to use their resources to alleviate suffering? Unlikely.

I do believe, however, when we choose to seek the beautiful, we raise the energy within our little spaces. When we lift the watering can once more or lick the chocolate from the spoon, we challenge the darkness with just a little bit of light.

Every decision we make has the ability to influence another; yes, even in this Groundhog Day like existence.

While the essential workers scrub and treat and heal and feed, I’ll muster a bit of battery juice into my tired fingers. We must remember to report the good.

The smell of crisp edges of a homemade waffle.

The crunch of hiking boots on a sandy mountain trail.

The smears of tears left on cheeks when it all feels like too much. THIS IS TOO MUCH.

A handprint left behind on a window wave.

A sunset captured in a smart phone camera.

Episodes of Downton Abbey previously unwatched.

Pages of cookbooks splattered with oil.

Laughter at inside jokes.

If we don’t report the good stuff, the bad stuff wins. If the extraordinary boring things go unnoticed, we give too much weight to the dark.

Go on … start a chemical reaction. Make some wind. Blow your good whirly-gig seeds all over the place.


If you believe in the pursuit of beautiful things, have ever come back from a set back in life, or hold firmly to the belief that we can all be kind to one another, invest in this on-going project.

If you like what you’ve read, please share the piece with a friend.