Words I Need to Hear

A long-time reader of this letter asked me a few weeks ago how I figure out what to write about.

“It often feels like you are writing to just me, and know exactly what I need to hear!” she said.

I have three regular writing projects (The newsletter you are reading, my blog I update several times a week, and The Hughsletter, my casual much more personal newsletter, where I share my work). And each of them has different ”voices”, or styles.

This is my longest running (a bit more than 7 years now), most read (I rarely check the numbers, but there are thousands of you), and least personal writing. That has evolved over the years – as more and more people subscribed, I found myself putting higher and higher boundaries around what I share here. That’s probably good and natural. And the promise I make to subscribers is a short essay and 5 links – not a guided tour inside Hugh’s head.

But I want to tell you a secret: I really write these letters to myself.

In these letters, I write the words I wish someone would whisper to me as I watch the US Supreme Court roll back fundamental freedoms, as I hear the gunfire of the desperate late at night, as I see the meager grocery purchases of the lonely old in the supermarket, as I see the futility on the faces of the young.

I write the words I need to hear.

Because I am often fearful and need someone to tell me that the future is bright and limitless. Because I get overwhelmed by the brutality of the world and need reminding that it is also full of beauty. Because I get so caught up in being a success that sometimes, I forget to be human. Because there is good in this world, and it is worth fighting for.

I need to be reminded that the future is still open. Even if it weren’t – it’s the only way to live that makes sense. If I don’t believe that my actions here, today, can make tomorrow better, then what hope is there for any of us? But I believe it is. I believe that we can change tomorrow by what we do today. I believe that we can build a better world than the one in which we currently live. I believe that – as hokey as it sounds – love for the people who will live in the future can motivate us to build a better present.

So as much as I wish I could know exactly what you need to hear to make sense of the world, I don’t. All I can do is write the words I need to hear and have the arrogance to hope that you need to hear them too.

The future is open. People are good. The world is full of beauty.

Don’t be afraid.

Five Beautiful Things

A poem for someone who is juggling her life.

It is easy to feel like we are at the end of our run as a species. But what if this is really just the beginning? Here is a lovely, well-done, short animation that asks us to consider the long view.

The times we live in are indeed alarming. It is a time of the most appalling escalation of violence—violence to the environment, both “nature” and “culture;” violence to all living beings. A time in which an ideology of extremism… has gained increasing credence—threatening life itself.

Those words were spoken by Susan Sontag in her hopeful commencement speech at Wellesley College in 1983. Our struggles are not new, and neither is the antidote offered by Sontag: Be Bold, Be Bold, Be Bold.

Summer Clayton is a single, childless Black man in his late 20’s, who has taken TikTok and Instagram by storm by being Your Proud Dad. He offers Dad advice: How to pump gas, how to shave, how to change a tire. He has “meals” with his viewers, where he tells his kid (the viewer) how proud he is of them. This is a reminder that we need not have children to be parents.

A friend share this poem with me recently, and it is exactly my thing. Life leans toward living, indeed.


Membership month came and went, and we now have over 130 people who are on the membership team that make this project – and all my projects, including the blog and the serially published cookbook I’m writing – possible. You can learn more about the membership team and how to support this project here.

Like many of you, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I get it. But the reality is that in our current capitalistic hellscape they provide access to essential goods and services to underserved areas and populations. So, this is just a reminder that July 12 and 13th is Prime Day, where gazillions of things on Amazon will be for sale at a deep discount for Prime Members.

It’s also worth pointing out that many online retailers like Target and Walmart are having competing sales of their own available to everyone, so you still want to shop around. If you are living close to the bone, this might be a good time to get something that’s been on your list.

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