beautiful things

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.

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. 

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.

Was It Risky? Yes.

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Anxiety seems to be a best friend to me these days. I’m swatting at my fears while sipping on homemade coffee, still here, working from home.

The glow of the computer screen fails to make up for my missing companionship, as I haven’t seen friends in close to 100 days. Almost a third of the year.

I don’t know how long we’ll be here, nor, I realize, do I have much control over the comings and goings of others who want to be out buying coffee from shops and swallowing down cocktails on outdoor patios.

The anxious ones are hurting here in this pandemic space.

This weekend, we drove down to spend time with my in-laws, a few of the people we’ve marked allowable in our pods of hopefully healthy people we love.

We have to have some connection. Father’s Day had arrived and while I woke with sadness in my chest, I needed to get my blood moving in different ways. Mix up the places we sit, the sidewalks we walk on, the conversations we’re having – variety is a great distractor.

Dylan locked our bikes to the roof of the car and the dog jumped in the back, panting heavily, as she always does when we transport her from here to there.

I’ve felt heavy for months. Laying on the ground helps. So do fresh flowers, and sourdough cookies, and sticking my hands in the dirt. I was hoping a drive may lighten the weight I seem to take on from the perceived painful energy of others.

As we drove, I looked west to the mountains and counted the snow capped peaks. Counted the cars in line for drive-up Covid tests. Counted the number of deep breaths I could take to let the grief and fear move through my tired body.

As the hour passed, we pulled up to the familiar intersection near the house, and a man about my brother’s age sat resting at the stop light. His back was arched, his face down, and he held a sign that said, “Can’t you just spare a dollar?” This man was someones loved one at some point. How long has he sat, ignored, unseen, unsure?

I pulled out my wallet and counted again, pulling crumpled bills from my purse that hasn’t been properly used in months.

I handed the cash to Dylan and said, “If you’re willing to risk it, we should give this guy cash. You can wash your hands when we get there.”

He rolled down the window, and we handed the man a few bucks. I didn’t make eye contact. I just wanted to help.

If I feel heavy, he may too.

We drove another block and scrubbed our hands clean, right after walking in the door.

It’s risky out there. Being human just is. One risk after the other.

Loving one another. Witnessing pain. Having hard conversations. Going grocery shopping. Driving in cars. Breathing in air of joggers who we don’t know if they are healthy. Facing the truth.

It’s all so risky.

And if we can choose to show up, over and over again, with our aching backs and light in our eyes, and hope in just a few dollars, our fears can be alleviated by miniature efforts to step into the truth.

It’s risky, yes. And beautiful too.

So we’re washing hands and weeping and hoping and praying and pleading. And still driving, and counting, and wondering how to apply the balm we all need to our wondering and waiting hearts. How can we find beauty in this risky space, too?

 

Day 51 – 52 Good Things

So close to 52. I didn’t think we’d get here and I’m rather surprised the amount of energy it takes to make a mental list of good things still surrounding us. But I continue searching and invite you to join me as we stay home and stay safe.

I’m called again, in whispers, to remember the choices we make when things seem the bleakest are opportunities for our wondering souls. What we focus on, while not ignoring painful realities, makes or breaks our spirits.

In conversations with friends and co-workers and texts and Instagram conversations, I’m reminded to look for the good.

181. Seeds for plant starts

182. Fingernails covered in dirt

183. An evening breeze through an open window

184. Aleve for back pain

185. Grocery delivery

185. Peanut M&Ms

186. Cacio e Pepe

187. Signs of support (contributed by Christine C)

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188. WhatsApp

189. Letters to children read via Instagram

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com

 

Day 44 – 52 Good Things

Still here. Still counting good things.

What’s good and beautiful in your life right now? What are you thankful for? My list continues here.

171. Sourdough cheese crackers

172. Clean sheets

173. Being vulnerable

174. Canned soup

175. Waiting for lilacs

176. Choosing how we want to “commute” to work

177. Orange nail polish

178. Hair ribbons

179. Plush carpet

180. Virtual Writing Workshops – there are still spots available for the Thursday evening session. Will I see you there?

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com

Day 40 – 52 Good Things

Quarantine has roots of the 40 days it takes for plague to pass. I’m at day 40. I know we will be here longer and that’s ok. I want people to be safe. Stay home. Still. Please.

Here are a few good and beautiful things from my week. Let’s keep counting.

160. Attempts at making powdered sugar – fine dust coating counters

161. Chocolate buttercream

162. Leslie Knope is coming back

163. Birthday celebrations from curbs with cupcakes

164. We sent FatHeads of ourselves to my in-laws. This is making me laugh EVERY TIME I see our picture.

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165. Time to write

166. Sharing eggs

167. Dinner prayers

168. Flowers blooming

169. Still sourdough

170. Virtual Writing Workshops – there are still spots available for tomorrow’s session. Will I see you there?

 

Day 37 – 52 Good Things

This morning Dylan and I pretended to commute to our jobs via Subway. Why not?

We turned on this soundtrack(154) and imagined we lived in a metro area and sent solidarity to New York. And laughed.

There are still good things. Even still.

155. This Praise Song for the Pandemic

156. Corn chips dipped in pub cheese

157. Recipe exchanges via email

158. Waking up to curl your hair

159. Virtual Writing workshops – Don’t forget there’s still time to register for this one!

using your words

 

Day 31 – 52 Good Things

I’m back. My spirits are lifted a bit and I’m encouraged by the neat things people are still doing. Yesterday I was sad. Today, I asked a friend to pray for me as I stood in line to get into the grocery store. And then, I snapped out of it when sitting waiting for a Zoom meeting I heard something familiar.

136. Children laughing in the backyard next to ours

There are still good things. I needed to remember to look. Maybe you do too right now. We’re still here. We can still breathe deep and tell people we’re loved.

Here are a few more.

137. Cocoa puffs and cereal milk

138. Second City is hosting free improv shows 

139. Pink tulips in vases of fresh water

140. Belly laughs

What good and beautiful things are you seeing in your life these days? Please send them to me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com