000 Buddhas

Field Trip Friday (Memory Lane Edition)—The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

September 18, 2020

Like most people, I’ve been staying close to home this year. I haven’t visited my mom in California, or met up with my friend Kerri for a road trip…and I miss it. 

At home, it’s been too hot to explore outdoors, and it hasn’t felt safe or appropriate to explore anywhere indoors. I’m getting a little stir crazy! So I decided to take Field Trip Friday into the realm of memory—surely there were some places I’ve visited during the past few years that I haven’t fully savored or written about here on Catching Happiness.
And indeed there were. The first one I want to share with you is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the first large Buddhist monastic community in the United States. Kerri and I stopped briefly at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas during our California road trip in 2018. We didn’t have a lot of time there, but the atmosphere made an impression. I had not heard of it before, even though it’s been around since the 1970s, and was officially inaugurated in 1982. Just goes to show how many interesting, out-of-the-way places are out there if we only look. 

The monastic complex lies on 80 acres of a 700-acre property nestled into a valley near Ukiah, California. There are 13 buildings, including the monastery, a dining hall, elementary and secondary schools, a gift and bookstore, a vegetarian restaurant, as well as an organic garden, fields, and woods. 

Here are a few photos:

The Hall of 10,000 Buddhas:

One of the resident peacocks:

I love this peaceful-looking statue:

Under normal circumstances, the monastery offers in-person classes and events, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the complex is temporarily closed to visitors and events are being held online.


We only had a short time to wander the peaceful grounds, unfortunately, but it would be an excellent place to sketch, read, or simply relax with your thoughts. 

Since I’m not ready to travel again yet, I am going to take some time to go through my photos from the trips I’ve been fortunate enough to take, and I’m going to pull out my trip journals, too. It’s not a bad thing to have time to reflect on the past travels. It lifts my spirits to relieve happy memories, and even the bumps and inconveniences of travel become funny memories over time. This is one of the (few) gifts of the pandemic: an opportunity to slow down and appreciate what I have without always pushing forward to the next bright, shiny thing.
Has the pandemic offered you any unexpected gifts? Please share in the comments below. 


Break Away

September 11, 2020

Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

“The biggest lies I tell myself are ‘It will just take a minute,” and “I’ll remember that.’

“It’s rare that anything worth doing lasts ‘just a minute’ or that we’ll be finished ‘in a sec’ or that ‘a quick look’ will be enough. We have to break away, turn off, shut down and come back.

“Break away. The work, the dishes, the decluttering, the worries, the to-do lists … they can wait.”
—Courtney Carver

What will you break away from today? What will you do instead?

Eugene Delacroix

We Are Happy When We Believe Ourselves So

September 04, 2020

Eugene Delacroix

“How are you? Are you ruling your imagination? That is the important thing: we are happy when we believe ourselves to be so, and if our minds are set on the opposite extreme all the diversions in the world will not give us any pleasure.”
—Eugene Delacroix, in an 1858 letter to Mme de Forget, The Journal of Eugene Delacroix

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein: Happiness Is Not an End in Itself

August 28, 2020


“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.”
—Albert Einstein


August Progress

August 21, 2020


Or, as I like to call it, “Ugh-ist.”

Never my favorite month. Except for the birthdays of some loved ones (hi, guys!), August is a month I just try to survive, and I have a long history of complaining about it every year here on Catching Happiness.  See “August Monday Musings,” “Feeling the Heat,” or “In Which I Compare Myself to a Horse.” 

But 2020 has been such a strange year, and while this August is…weird to say the least, for me personally, it’s better than the past few years. Last summer, Tank had a serious hoof condition and was lame, and my husband’s truck engine blew. The year before that I was stressed out about moving Tank to a new barn and our son had been forced to move home temporarily.  And the year before that, Tank had an abscessed tooth that required twice-a-day doctoring. This month, fingers crossed, I’m just dealing with ordinary, day-to-day stuff. For which I am very, very grateful.

Despite my typical lack of energy in August, I have been participating in some challenges this month: the KonMari 8-Week Tidy Challenge and Susannah Conway’s #augustbreak2020 Instagram challenge. I’m doing them both imperfectly, and that’s OK. I’ve probably missed more days than I’ve posted on Instagram, but I’m allowing myself to take it easy. (See my posts here.) I’m a bit bogged down with tidying my books (is anyone surprised?), but I’m making progress. Slow, languid, August progress, but progress nonetheless.

In progress...


I feel like that’s a lesson I can learn this year: keep trying. Do it imperfectly, but don’t give up. Soften. 

I hope that you have been able to enjoy some of summer’s simple pleasures, and that you’re experiencing August progress. Tell me about what you’ve been up to in the comments!


Finding Deeper Happiness

August 14, 2020

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

“If our happiness is dependent on anything that’s transitory, we must always search for new things to keep us happy.
“For all of us, there’s another form of happiness that isn’t transitory: it is instead sustaining and renewing. It’s the happiness we find when we’re aligned with whatever it is in life that we find personally fulfilling and meaningful. Although other people, possessions, or thoughts can be part of it they are never the origin of this deeper form of internal happiness. Internally rooted happiness simply is.”
—Lynn Ginsburg and Mary Taylor, What Are You Hungry For?


Learning the Skill of Happiness

August 07, 2020

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

“Happiness is a state of activity.

“This is a tremendously powerful thought. Thinking of happiness as something we do, as something we actively participate in creating, rather than something we simply feel, can change the way we approach our happiness and our lives.

“This is another big perception shift; happiness is absolutely a feeling and a state of well-being, but the key to happiness is understanding that it is created through action. And learning the skill of happiness helps us to consistently and naturally take the actions to shape and live our happiest, most dynamic life.”
—Kristi Ling, Operation Happiness


Soften Instead

July 31, 2020

“I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember that our fears rarely materialize, and that in bracing ourselves for the impact, we create the impact. If only we could let go and soften our bodies, soften our minds, soften our expectations, whatever happens would be felt as a nudge rather than a crash.”


A Handful of Happy Things (Link Love)

July 24, 2020

I’ve spent more time than usual with my computer over the past months, and I have a handful of happy things to share today. So here goes:

I so much want to travel somewhere, but until I can I’m finding ways to visit places virtually. I’ve watched Will Greene’s time lapse video of Acadia National Park twice already—and I only discovered it yesterday!

A St. Petersburg, Florida couple is turning old newspaper boxes into little free libraries. Especially helpful when libraries are closed or offering limited services.

Scroll to the bottom of this post by Jen Louden for an explanation of why so many of us feel angry, and an exercise to “Prevent the Blast” when you feel like you’re about to snap.

You NEED to see this Squirrel Ninja Obstacle Course.

I feel like what David of raptitude.com writes in “Most Accomplishments Are Invisible” is even truer in July than it was in December when this post went live:

“So if you feel inadequate whenever some form of the ‘achievement Olympics’ comes up, don’t. We live in a society that assesses people by what their lives produce, not what it takes to live them. Inner work is ignored unless it explains some outer work.
“That says a lot about society, and nothing about you. Rest assured that many millions of us know the immense value of changing your inner world, or even just surviving it, because we’re doing it quietly alongside you. Most of what the human world accomplishes on any given day is very hard to see.
I wrote this piece for a local county’s visitor’s guide. Click here to see the entire downloadable guide. 
There’s a new baby giraffe at Busch Gardens in Tampa. I love giraffes!

Hope you have a safe and happy weekend!


Happy People and Hard Times

July 17, 2020

Photo by Hayley Maxwell on Unsplash
“Sometimes, life doesn’t just throw you lemons, it throws you grenades. Personal struggles, transition, illness, loss of loved ones—these are all unavoidable events that every single one of us will experience at some point on our journey. This fact can’t be ignored (as nice as it is to not think about it). Happy people aren’t exempt from hard times; they’re just armed with the foundation, outlook, and effective tools to help them navigate, survive, and heal successfully, as well as create the best possible outcomes.”
Kristi Ling, Operation Happiness

Simple pleasures

Better Late Than Never: The 2020 Summer Fun List

July 13, 2020

Photo by Vicko Mozara on Unsplash

I’ve had a hard time coming up with a Summer Fun List this summer. Nothing much seems like fun, to be honest. It’s doubtful that the places that I would normally seek out for fun this summer will be open, and if they are, I may not feel comfortable visiting them. I won’t be traveling to California to see my mom(s), I won’t be seeing any museum exhibitions or going to any baseball games, and I probably won’t even be wandering the aisles of my local library.

[insert crying emoji]

But summer isn’t cancelled, and neither is fun. Without being too ambitious, I want my remembering self to have something to look back on from this summer, aside from avoiding people and wearing a mask. 

When trying to come up with simple pleasures and everyday adventures to add to my summer fun list, I thought about what types of things would be fun without being too much like chores. I want my fun list to include:

  • Something to look forward to
  • Time to spend doing activities I love
  • Connecting with people I love
  • Doing something new or going someplace new—exploring
  • Eating and/or drinking something seasonal and delicious
  • Enjoying nostalgia
  • Learning something

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Rewatch some favorite movies, starting with Romancing the Stone
  • Dust off our ice cream maker and make homemade ice cream
  • Institute an occasional aperitif ritual with my husband
  • Return to my sketchbook from France, and do more sketching and art journaling
  • Plan a staycation
  • Watch the sunset on the beach
  • Read from my summer reading list, heavy on books from my own shelves
  • Take part in a travel photo challenge on Facebook (almost complete)
  • Reconnect with friends and family via phone calls, emails, letters

Note: While many people rejoice in the chance to go outside during the summer months, the weather where I live is oppressively hot, humid, and unpleasant, so my list has very few outdoor activities on it. If you live in a kinder climate, Ingrid Fetell Lee’s “How to Find Joy in an Unconventional Summer” contains a multitude of outdoorsy summer fun ideas.

And that’s about all I can think of. And since summer is a typically low energy time for me (and it’s already mid-July!), I’m going to call that good for now.

What about you? Do you have any fun plans this summer? Do share in the comments!

Becoming Our Truest Selves

July 10, 2020

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become strengths greater than what we had when we were ‘normal’ or unbroken…. This is a philosophy that positions our toughest experiences not as barriers, but as doorways, and may be the key to us becoming our truest selves.”
—Nnedi Okorafor, Broken Places & Outer Spaces

4th of July

Opening the Gate to Joy

July 03, 2020

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I was once on Deer Isle, Maine, on the Fourth of July, and attended their own town parade. Deer Isle isn’t big enough to mount a very long parade, so they ran it past us twice, first down to the water, and then back up. And we applauded as much with our second viewing as we did with the first. July 4th parades are a wonderful institution. And here’s a parade for you, by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, who lives in southwest Colorado.  Her newest book, Hush, has just been published by Middle Creek Press.

In the Fourth of July Parade

Right down the middle of main street
the woman with the long red braids
and fairy wings strapped to her back
rode a unicycle more than two times
taller than she was—rode it with balance
and grace, her arms stretched out,
as if swimming through gravity,
as if embracing space—her smile an invitation
to join in her bliss. How simple it is, really,
to make of ourselves a gate that swings open
to the joy that is. How simple, like tossing
candy in a parade, to share the key to the gate.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2019 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “In the Fourth of July Parade,” (2019 ). Poem reprinted by permission of Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy 4th of July!


How Can We Serve Others?

June 26, 2020

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

“….we often serve others best simply by honoring what we care about most. ‘To find our calling,’ wrote theologian Frederick Buechner, ‘is to find the intersection between our own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.’”
–Sarah Juniper Rabkin, What I Learned at Bug Camp

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Shedding Shells

June 19, 2020

Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

“Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armor. Was that armor not put on to protect one from the competitive world? If one ceases to compete, does one not need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea

Free is one of my words of the year. So far, 2020 has been stripping away my “shells.” I’m feeling raw, but this quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beautiful Gift From the Sea is encouraging me to see the freedom that can follow that process.

Adrienne Rich

How Are You Feeling? [Check One]

June 12, 2020

Photo by Jakob Søby on Unsplash

“It’s exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful.”
—Adrienne Rich

Emotions are running high, and we may all need to take some time to check in with our feelings. If it helps, write out your thoughts, or talk to a trusted confidante. My journal is getting a workout these days. The world is frightening and sorrowful right now—but I truly believe good will come out of all the turmoil. Wishing you a healthy, peaceful, and happy weekend!


Time to Listen Link Love

June 05, 2020

It feels inappropriate, to say the least, to write about the things I was planning to write about this week—simple pleasures, everyday adventures, my summer fun list and summer reading list. The protests taking place all over the United States, and the world, have filled my mind and heart to bursting, made me appropriately uncomfortable, forcing me to think about concepts and experiences of which I’ve been largely oblivious.

It shouldn’t have taken multiple publicized deaths and nationwide protests to wake me up to what life is like for people of color in this country. It’s time to examine my own biases and beliefs and how they’ve been influenced by the culture I’ve grown up in, as well as educate myself about underlying structural racism.

Since I’m still at the beginning of my learning—where I should be listening rather than speaking—I thought I’d share a few links to material written by people who have eloquently and usefully examined this topic, as well as links to a few anti-racism resources I’m exploring. I hope they prove helpful to you. (And please share in the comments any resources you’ve found helpful.)

“For those of you who are tired of reading about racism, I’m tired of black and brown bodies being killed by it. I’m tired of watching some white people be more upset by those who are protesting racism as opposed to the racism itself. Being numb is characterizing what happened to Floyd, Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery (who was hunted, shot and killed by two white men while jogging), as unfortunate, disconnected anomalies. Feeling is understanding they are not disconnected at all but, rather, the reason why James Baldwin once said ‘to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’”

With Liberty and Justice for All. In this thoughtful piece, Gretchen Rubin shares part of a speech John F. Kennedy gave on June 11, 1963 after the Alabama National Guard had to enforce a court order requiring the desegregation of the University of Alabama. Here’s a part of the quoted speech:

“I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened….

“The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark…cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content...[to] stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay? …

“Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise.”

I ask myself, as Rubin does at the end of her post, “How can I, in my own life, live up to my country's highest ideals?”
Jen Louden suggests in “White People, Please Don’t Give In to Despair,” that we “Start from wonder and love and steady effort. ‘I wonder how I can learn today? I wonder who I can help today?’ Don’t make it about what you haven’t done cause that’s making it about you. ​Make it about now.” She continues, ‘Stop believing the Hollywood version of change you see in movies. That’s not how real change has ever happened or ever will. Real change happens because of millions of small acts by millions of people. What you do matters! Start today.’”


In Honor of My First Library Book Checkout in More Than Two Months

May 29, 2020

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

“Books are more than doctors, of course. Some novels are loving, lifelong companions; some give you a clip around the ear; others are friends who wrap you in warm towels when you’ve got those autumn blues. And some…well, some are pink candy floss that tingles in your brain for three seconds and leaves a blissful void. Like a short, torrid love affair.”
—The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George

As I posted on Instagram yesterday, my local library system is gradually reopening, and one of my library holds came in and I picked it up via appointment. We're not yet allowed inside the library itself, so I’m eagerly awaiting the day I can indulge in the simple pleasure of wandering the stacks, breathing in the smell of books, and choosing a new read at random from the shelves. 


Do You Feel Like You’re “Flunking” the Pandemic?*

May 22, 2020

I’ve been feeling disappointed in myself lately, that I haven’t “achieved” more during our stay-at-home order. I haven’t taken this time to think deeply about my life and determine what, if anything, I want to change going forward. I haven’t reorganized my bookshelves. I haven’t made sourdough bread starter, or even caught up on TV shows I want to see. And my first (and so far, only) attempt at mask making was a sad failure. I don’t appear to be doing anything other than just my normal stuff.

Am I flunking the pandemic?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of “10 Craft Projects to Do During Lockdown,” and “How to Write Your Novel While Sheltering in Place,” not to mention, “Get Your Body in Bikini-Shape While the World Ends All Around You.” I understand the urge to make the most of our time and not to wish it away, but more and more often when I read headlines like the above, my response is: barf.

(Note: You really shouldn’t ask people terrified of losing their jobs, getting sick or even dying to be bikini ready by June.)

Is it only Americans who turn a worldwide pandemic into a chance to do more, hustle more, sculpt our clearly inferior selves into something shiny and new, emerging like a butterfly from one of the most stressful and frightening times in our nation’s history?

What is wrong with us?

I admit that during the past couple of months of staying home I thought I’d:

  • Spend hours reading
  • Bake a lot
  • Tidy, organize, and purge

I was surprised to find that I didn’t spend any more time than I normally would have doing those things. I did make brownies once, and I’m in an ongoing wrestling match with papers in my office, but after the closet, not much else has gotten cleaned.

No, I haven’t organized my home library.
No, I haven’t made artisan bread.
No, I haven’t learned a second language, written my book, painted the woodwork in my bathroom, or binge watched all of Netflix. I’ve listened to *one * podcast.

I think my way of coping is staying within my normal routine as much as possible.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong if you have been productive during quarantine. I have one friend who’s been tackling home improvement chores and another one who’s made thirteen quilts. We all handle stress and time on our hands in different ways.

If you made the equivalent of thirteen quilts, that’s awesome. I hope you enjoyed the process and found it soothing.

If you watched thirteen straight hours of Harry Potter movies while eating popcorn from a bowl on your chest, I hope that kept the anxiety at bay until you could cope with it.

My point, and I do have one, is that whatever form your self-care and coping comes in, it’s OK. Just because you’re not going to your 9-to-5 job every day doesn’t mean you must replace that with a long list of self or home improvement tasks. You don’t always have to be doing, improving. You can just be. Really. Sometimes, it’s better to soften

Bless you if you’ve been helping your neighbors or continuing to work in your normal job. Bless you if you’ve been keeping the rest of us fed, medicated, clothed, and otherwise stumbling along. But also bless you if it’s been all you can do to take a shower and get dressed, or make yourself and your family something to eat. Bless you if you spent two hours watching funny animal videos instead of cleaning the garage.

And please be kind, especially to yourself. You’re not flunking the pandemic, and neither am I. We’re surviving.

*This post inspired by Cathy Guisewite’s Instagram post.

James Clear

You’re Wealthier Than You Think

May 15, 2020

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“Wealth is the power to choose.
Financial wealth is the power to choose how to spend money.
Social wealth is the power to choose who to hang out with.
Time wealth is the power to choose how to spend your day.
Mental wealth is the power to choose how to spend your attention.”
—James Clear


What We’re Really Afraid Of

May 01, 2020

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”


I’m Not Getting It Together, or Prepare Yourself for a Long and Rambling Post

April 24, 2020

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to figure out why I seem unable to get anything of note accomplished. Could it be because the world has gone mad? For instance:

  • Our local weather has been see-sawing between the 90s and the 70s with violent storms in between. 
  • I haven’t been to the library since March 14.
  • I go grocery shopping wearing a mask.

You’d think I would have extra time on my hands since I can’t pick up a few things at Target or meet a friend at Panera for coffee—or do any of the other little things that seem to suck up more time than you’d expect. Since we are so very, very fortunate to be safe, healthy, and comfortable during this stay-at-home time, I thought I’d be reading more books, creating art, and writing like mad.

I’m not.


Guess it’s not just “lack of time” that keeps me from doing the things I say I want to do. What have I been doing? I really don’t know. I’ve spent some extra time with Tank because he was due for vet and farrier visits recently. Though honestly, since I’m still doing all the household things I did before lockdown, I don’t have as much additional free time as those who are home from their regular jobs. I’m still doing most of my “regular job,” so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at my lack of increased productivity. The good news is that this week has been better than last week, which was in turn better than the one before.

I see that many other people are struggling with the same mood and motivation issues during these strange days. If you’re struggling too, you’re not alone. Here are a few things that have helped me with the disconnect/anxiety/overall strangeness:

  • Dressing rather than staying in pajamas.
  • Checking in with one or two people every day.
  • Checking the news briefly, choosing the least incendiary headlines to click.
  • Writing in my journal.
  • Going outside for a few minutes to water the plants and seeds, and watch the dog run around.
  • Completing one or two small (I mean miniscule) tasks each week. This week I cleaned up some spots on the carpet in the master bedroom and cleaned and conditioned the boots I wear to the barn.

I also found this piece really interesting—the variety of things people are doing to stay sane. For example, “To guard against lethargy, despondency and slovenliness, structure feels important: appointments, schedules, achievable goals, regular activities.” (Simon Armitage)


“It’s important not to beat ourselves up. You don’t always have to do stuff. Or achieve stuff. You don’t have to spend your time wisely and productively. You don’t have to be doing tai chi and DIY and artisan bread-making. Sometimes you can just be and feel things and get through and survive. It’s OK to just exist.” (Matt Haig)

I’ve spent a good amount of time online, but not reading the news. I’ve gravitated towards music and happier types of distractions, including:

70 West End stars perform Les Misérables’ Do You Hear The People Sing

Cast of Beautiful sings “You’ve Got a Friend”

(Can you tell I miss my shows at the Straz?!)

I’ve been listening to this almost every day.

John Krasinksi’s SGN (Some Good News) episodes are lots of fun. Episode 2 continues my personal musical theater theme with an appearance by Lin-Manuel Miranda and other Hamilton cast members.

If you’re more into operatic/classical music, click here for Andrea Bocelli’s performance at the Duomo in Milan.

Meteorologist Jeff Lyons of Indiana has been shooting his weather forecasts at home, with a little help from the family pet, who has now been dubbed Betty the Weather Cat. Click here to see them in action.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or next week, or next year. This situation is unprecedented on every level. I’m simultaneously terrified and hopeful. I’ve heard about so many generous acts, such grace and kindness, and I choose to focus on those things rather than the actions of those who for whatever reason allow their baser instincts to take over. I’m trying to overcome my own fear and shyness to reach out to see how I can help others, and I’m doing it imperfectly and awkwardly and often missing the mark altogether. And I’m especially grateful for grocery store employees who never imagined they might be risking their lives to check me out at Publix.

I hope you and your loved ones are still safe and healthy, and that you’re about to enjoy a weekend of simple pleasures and everyday adventures. Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below. And if you’ve heard any positive stories coming out of this crisis, please also share those in the comments!

Chani Nicholas

Words for a Pandemic

April 17, 2020

“Be gentle.
Rest often.
—Chani Nicholas

Soften is one of my chosen words of the year. I didn’t expect it to be this essential.

Jonathan Greene

Finding Solace in Poetry

April 10, 2020

Lost in the frenzy of coping with the Covid-19 situation is the fact that April is National Poetry Month in the United States. Several times on Catching Happiness, I’ve posted about incorporating poetry into one’s life in simple, non-intimidating ways. (See “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” or “10 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month.”)

In fact, now seems like an excellent time to return to reading poetry. I find it calming and soothing—and slowing down is necessary in order to fully appreciate the layers of meaning in many poems. In particular, I’ve been meaning to revisit some of Robert Frost’s poetry after visiting one of his homes in September of 2019.

In the meantime, here’s a poem, courtesy of americanlifeinpoetry.org, to remind us that even in the face of  “interesting times,” some rituals remain.

Introduction by Ted Kooser: That sage curse, “May you live in interesting times,” has been upon us for the past few years, but here a Kentucky poet, Jonathan Greene, offers us some reassurance that there is order in the world. Greene has a special talent for, and love of, short poems, and this is a good example of his work. This poem is from his most recent book, Afloat, published by Broadstone Books.

The Return

We are heartened
when each year
the barn swallows

They find their old nests,
teach their young to fly,
lining up on the barn roof
for their first flight.

They remind us,
for now, some rituals
of this good earth

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Jonathan Greene, “The Return,” from Afloat, (Broadstone Books, 2019). Poem reprinted by permission of Jonathan Greene and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Strange Days

April 06, 2020

A little bit of spring from California a couple of years ago

Life continues to feel surreal. Most of us are down to visiting the grocery store and staring at our own four walls. My big outing of the week is a trip to the barn to take care of Tank. If I happen to run into anyone, we stand at least six feet away from each other and shout pleasantries. Weird.

Nearly everyone I know and the majority of the people I follow on social media or the Internet is relentlessly trying to remain positive and encouraging, and I could not be more grateful. My mother-in-law sent the whole family an email with only these words:


I have no idea what life will be like once this is “over.” Will it ever be over? Did someone hit a reset button somewhere?

I’ve been too tired and distracted to do much of anything, and even my reading has suffered. I don’t have a lot of work deadlines right now, but I do have personal writing projects I’d like to pursue, and I can’t seem to motivate myself to do them. I’ve tried breaking them down into smaller and smaller bits, but so far haven’t found a small enough bit to accomplish.

But today is the start of a new week, a week in which I will continue to enjoy simple pleasures and maybe even an everyday adventure or two—for example, I need to pick up a few items at the grocery store today—wish me luck! I will try again to be more productive with my time, whether I use it to clean up a mess (have you noticed the Persistence of Messes even in times of pandemic?), or to write a haiku, or to otherwise play around with words hoping to find the magic combination that resonates in my mind as being something I want to share. 

I will read books from my unread shelf, and library books that have been stranded with me. I will take Luna for walks, and brush Prudy. Tank is scheduled to have his yearly vaccines this week. I will make dinner, and do laundry, and otherwise keep our home a place of safety and comfort. My husband’s business is considered essential, so he is still going to his office, though it is closed to the public and only one other employee is working there with him (the rest are working from home).

I will take it one day at a time. Life goes on, even in these strange days. 

And how are you doing?

While avoiding too much news, I have found some solace online. Here are some links you might find inspiring or helpful:

If you have extra time on your hands, you could do worse than joining Yale University’s “The Science of Well Being” course, available free through Coursera.

“Pandemic Positivity” downloads from Positively Present.

I’m partway through watching this TED Connects video with Elizabeth Gilbert.

And finally, I leave you with this, the best thing I’ve seen online all week (thanks for sharing, Kerri):

Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Love you all!

Carlos Castaneda

Make Yourself Strong

March 27, 2020

Seen on my walk this morning

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong.
The amount of work is the same.”
― Carlos Castaneda


So What Do You DO With Yourself Now?

March 23, 2020

Are we there yet?

With much of the US (and the rest of the world) either “social distancing” or “sheltering in place,” all you extroverts and work-outside-your home folks must be going crazy. While my day-to-day life hasn’t changed that much (I admit I miss the library), I can certainly sympathize with the frustrations of having your schedule turned upside down, and having to fill hours of the day productively rather than stewing and worrying uselessly. Yes, of course, you can binge watch TV or movies, or read, but here are a few more simple pleasures and everyday adventures for while you’re sheltering at home:

Bake something. Blow the dust off your bread machine (do people still have those? I do!), mix up a batch of your family’s favorite cookies, or use up the over-ripe bananas in banana bread. I find baking very calming, not to mention yummy.

Take a walk in nature. Obviously, you should only do this if you can do it safely, but there really is something so uplifting about getting some fresh air and sunlight. (Plus, you probably need the exercise—see first suggestion.) 

Take an online art class. Laure Ferlita’s online watercolor classes are fun, accessible, and reasonably priced. She just launched a new one last week, Spring Wreath. (No affiliation except friendship!)

Doodle with Mo Willems, Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence. Primarily aimed at kids, but still fun for adults! As he says, “You might be isolated, but you’re not alone. You are an art maker. Let’s make some art together.”

Watch and listen to the Berlin Philharmonic in their digital concert hall, free for 30 days, if you register by March 31. So soothing.

Participate in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Stay At Home Book Tour. The first event was today, but there’s one every day this week, and if you can’t join live, there will be replays available. Learn about it here.

Fill your mind with positive, encouraging, and uplifting things, like:

This post, by Dani DiPirro of Positively Present.

This interview with author Rebecca Solnit. Her book A Paradise Built in Hell, “describes how in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters…human beings tend to respond by banding together, not tearing apart.”

No doubt this is a hard and scary time. Let’s get through it together. Share the things that are helping you in the comments below!

Look for my travel writing here