Time Travel

Hushabye mountain

Good morning, friends.

This is a caffeine-deprived, written-on-shaky-motel-wifi edition of Life Is So Beautiful, and I’m Hugh Hollowell, your cynical yet hopeful host. Welcome!

This won’t be a regular issue today – It’s 5 AM and I’m in a motel in Alpharetta Georgia, waiting (somewhat) patiently for the lobby coffee to be available so I can write.

Yes, they have those little coffee pots in the room with the coffee packets, but those are sketchy as can be, and we will pretend you did not suggest I use them.

Anyway. We spent the weekend in the mountains of North Carolina visiting some friends, and am now on our way home. Well, actually, I am still waiting for coffee, but you know what I mean. It’s a 9-hour trip, and while I drove up in one day, it felt kinder to my body to break the journey home into two days. My body doesn’t respond to long road trips the way it once did.

It was 71 degrees when we left Jackson, MS on Friday morning heading North, and at each gas station or pit stop, it was colder and colder. Traveling North and South is always a bit like time travel itself – as you go North in the springtime, you see the clock roll back – things that were in bloom four weeks ago in Jackson but are now spent still are in their glory in the mountains, and while we were there, our cookout plans were dashed because of a snowstorm.

*Pause to check on the coffee situation*

You will be pleased to know that coffee has in fact arrived in the lobby, and I am now caffeinated. Sadly, they only have sweetened CoffeeMate instead of actual cream. This confuses me, as the coffee itself is quite good, so perhaps the coffee and the condiments were picked by two different people? But if the last two years have taught us anything, it is that we live in a broken world, and not everyone has your best interests at heart.

Where was I again? Oh yes. Time travel. It was like that in more ways than one, because the people I saw on this trip knew me best when I was a younger man, doing different work, and I had different dreams. So there was much bringing up to date, and I met people who read these weekly missives and enjoy them, and I got encouragement and validation and the joy of knowing that I do something that matters to people.

The last month of publishing this letter, as I have endured the struggles of technology, has been very frustrating to me, forcing me to change some plans and give up on some ideas and endure some sunk costs. But this weekend – seeing the blue mountains come over the horizon as I move North through Georgia, watching the snow swirl outside my window, sharing a long meal with people who love me, explaining my work to people who were unfamiliar with it, and the seemingly endless hours of staring at the yellow line in the middle of the road while reflecting have combined to remind me how truly grateful I am to be invited into your inbox each week, and how important this project is to me.

Life is so beautiful, friends. I hope you find some beauty in your world this week.

Five Beautiful Things

The story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, has been told as a cautionary tale, warning us to not let our ambition destroy us. But the poet Jack Gilbert reminds us that however it ended up, before the failure, Icarus knew what it meant to fly.

I’ve shared the work of storm watcher Mike Olbinski before, but he just released some new footage of the dustclouds that often precede the thunderstorms in dry climates, and this is breathtaking. It is not lost on me that such storms can also be incredibly destructive – but that is how things are, isn’t it? Beauty and death often coincide.

Shira Barzilay is an artist who uses nature photos as the starting point of her work, on which she then draws line drawings, incorporating nature itself into the work. So the clouds may become locks of hair, or the figure she draws may recline on the mountain as if a chair. They are very woman forward, and are just lovely.

Charles Leval, AKA Levalet, is a street artist in Paris, whose drawings are wheat pasted in place in such a way that they interact with their surroundings. I love good street art – the generosity of making art that will be accessible for everyone and not just those who can pay should be encouraged.

I was today years old when I learned about the Ama, the legendary freediving women of Japan, who for 2,000 years have been diving for food, shells, and pearls with no scuba gear. They can hold their breathe for two minutes or more, they endure heroiclally cold temperatures, and they free dive up to 25 meters. Here is the Wiki article, but I also found some spectacular black and white photos from the 1950’s. Please note that the Ama historically dived wearing only shorts or loincloths, so there are plenty of topless (but not sexualized) women in these NSFW but still beautiful photos.

Thank you!

This newsletter remains free and ad-free because of the support of my Patrons, who insist on my making it free for everyone else. Other ways to support this project include buying me a cup of coffee or forwarding it to your friends.

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