#51 | Coping Mechanisms

“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
— Seneca

I have wanted a porch swing my whole life, but never owned the porch for it. So I built this instead.

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.

The last two months have been… interesting? The shift in everything – I mean everything – has been surreal. We all find our own coping mechanisms, some healthier than others, and mine is building things.

First I built a chicken coop. Then a swing for the front yard (that is it up top there). Next is a fence for the side yard, and eventually, a deck for the backyard. These are all things we have been planning since we moved in, and assumed it would take 5 years for me to have enough time to do them.

Five years? How about 2 months? Hah. We plan, God laughs.

Building things and cooking are my two favorite… hobbies? I don’t think of them that way, though, because hobbies, at least the way I understand them, are done for their own sake, and both of my… interests have a result that is useful.

And that is the thing – I am unsure if it is Protestant guilt or a working-class work ethic or my ADHD or something more pathological, but I have never been good at sitting still. I can read for a few hours in a row, I can watch some movies without getting up and moving around, but other than that, I can’t “relax”. I can’t sit still. And the idea of sitting for 4 hours and pasting stamps in a book or putting a jigsaw puzzle together that I am going to then take apart and put back in its box just sends shudders up my spine.

But for me, building things IS relaxing. I get the same joy from taking 30 boards of various sizes and cutting them to make a gate as my wife does from a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. And when I am done, we have a gate that we didn’t have before. In what is probably my favorite novel, the Reverend Ames prays that his son will be brave and that he will find a way to be useful. That is all I have ever wanted.

How are you coping with all of this? Hit reply and let me know.

Five beautiful things

Decay can be beautiful. In one of the Travis McGee books, I forget which, McGee wonders what the world will look like when we get past our dependence on the automobile – what will we do with the broad paved roads, the parking lots, the old cars? I thought of that line for the first time in 20 years when I saw these amazing photos of abandoned cars.

As I said above, we all have our own ways of coping. I love this story (and photos) of a celebrated sports photographer who discovers a whole new world in his backyard.

This is cute: What did the Hubble Telescope see on your birthday?

Museum curators have taken to sharing on Twitter the creepiest thing they have in their collection, and the results are epic.

These… vignettes?… are beautiful and hit a lot of my triggers.


So, I have mentioned it in bits and bobs, but I have a podcast now. It’s called Hopeful Resistance, and it’s about changing the world without losing our soul in the process. It is the companion piece to my other newsletter I send each Friday. It isn’t for everyone, but if you would rather listen than read, you can find out more here.

If you like it, I wish you would tell a friend, and maybe leave a review on iTunes.

Can we talk?

Every week, in addition to my day job running a small nonprofit farm, I crank out two newsletters and a podcast. They are a labor of love, and they are all part of my life’s work of creating a compelling vision of a better world.

That work is funded by, as of this morning, 62 people who pay the freight so everyone can read my essays, get my newsletter, and listen to my podcast. I have turned away offers of advertising and sponsorships in order to keep my content free for everyone. Think of it like NPR, and those 62 folks are the Sustainers who make it all possible.

If my labor of love has moved you in some way, if you have shared my stuff with others, if you are one of the many folks who send me notes thanking me for doing this newsletter for more than 5 years now, will you consider becoming a Patron and supporting my work? It means I have the time and resources to keep doing the things I do, as well as the cushion I need to risk new things, like the Hopeful Resistance podcast.

I really do appreciate it more than you know. Y’all are the best.