Tag Archives: Happiness

Find things beautiful: van Gogh and us all

Vincent began to make his presence known in my life. Books about him passed through my hands at the library where I work.

The book Vincent Van Gogh by Mike Venezia

A library patron returned the DVD Loving Vincent and took time to tell me how much he enjoyed the movie.

DVD cover for Loving Vincent

A blogger I follow wrote about Vincent in A Sunflower Story.

And then I immersed myself in his art and his thoughts at Beyond van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. (Go, if it comes to a city near you.)

At the exhibition Vincent himself melted from the ceiling.

His brushstrokes came to life on the high walls and the floor all around me.

His artist soul reached out to my creative one as if he had written sentiments to me personally across centuries. I am certain every person immersed in his experience felt the same.

Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "I also believe that it may happen that one succeeds, and one mustn't begin by despairing; even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don't turn out as one first thought." To Theo van Gogh, The Hague, 22 October 1882
Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "...I always think that what we need is sunshine and fine weather and blue air as the most dependable remedy." To Theo van Gogh, Arles, 29 September 1888

Vincent told me to enjoy the air and sunshine. He urged me not to despair.

He reminded me to seek out the beautiful. A message sent to me, and you, from 1874 to the present.

Quote, text against van Gogh brushstrokes: "...find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful." London, January 1874

Servicing and light repairs

In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forward. Trains required turntables, like this one at the John Street roundhouse in Toronto, Canada, to turn them around for return journeys. While at John Street, the locomotives received “servicing and light repairs.”

Canadian Pacific rail car on the roundhouse at Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada.
Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada

According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, locomotives serviced there were so attractively maintained, their appearance became known among railroaders as the “John Street polish.”

I’ll be taking a few weeks away for some “servicing and light repairs” of my own before turning around for a return journey, or at least some spit and polish before moving forward again.

Some of the time will be spent at my cottage—one of my roundhouses.

Do you have a “roundhouse.”

Orange and purple sunset over a lake

Put a happy face on it: Pothole city

Going through old posts, I found a picture to give us a boost today.

Orange happy face painted on a pothole
Happy face pothole

It is the time of year for potholes in Ottawa, Canada where I live. The ground is thawing and contracting after expanding through the frozen winter. Road salt exacerbates the damage to the asphalt that crumbles under the wheels of cars.

On this pothole, patched by black asphalt, a happy person painted an orange happy face.

When life sends you potholes, put on a happy face.

Mind like water: Stress-free productivity

Don’t get set into one form: adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

—Bruce Lee as found in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Over the past year, during my work at the library or as a writer, I’ve heard comments like this:

  • I’m trying to read now that I have more time, but I can’t concentrate!
  • My mind doesn’t want to focus on anything “heavy.” My productivity has plummeted.
  • I’m supposed to be working/writing, but it’s so difficult to stick with it.

The stresses of COVID are messing with our minds, and our productivity.

Today I wanted to lie on my couch and do nothing. That sounded like the BEST plan.

I opened my phone. I clicked on an old link. I found Bruce Lee’s phrase, and I got up off the couch.

“Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input, then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.”

David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If I throw a rock into a pond, the water has to react. It can’t NOT react.

COVID threw a rock into us. It was a BIG rock. We responded. We couldn’t NOT react. And we reacted appropriately to the force and mass.

Now, like water, we can return to calm. Out of that, productivity flows.

Ripples on water

Love anyway

In our house, we count down to Christmas by lighting candles on the Advent wreath—one every Sunday before Christmas.

The fourth candle is the LOVE candle.

No matter what you believe, the Christmas story, and the stories of man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, are about LOVE.

An unmarried woman gets pregnant? Love her anyway. A child is born out of wedlock? Love him anyway. A man is disenfranchised from society? Eat with him and love him anyway. A woman has a communicable disease? Walk with her and love her anyway. Someone wants to learn or play or work even though it’s a holy day? Teach them, laugh with them or help them and love them anyway.

This holiday season—no matter what or how you celebrate—love anyway.

Widely, madly, indiscriminately.

13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

— 1 Corinthians 13:13

This year, the best way we can show love is by keeping ourselves, our families and friends safe.

Sometimes we show the greatest love by staying away. With faith, and hope, we will abide, even when apart.


Joy, because the first Christmas gifts were not reciprocal

Nativity scene

It did not happen like this:

Joseph: Mary, the wise men are on their way, and they’re all carrying something.

Mary: Carrying something? What could that be?

Joseph: I’m not sure, but one of them has something shiny. I think it’s gold.

Mary: Gold! Oh, no! But I didn’t get anything for them. Do we have something under the manger we can wrap up quickly?

You know the scenario: Someone you don’t usually exchange gifts with appears before you with a brightly wrapped Christmas gift. She beams with joy, because she has found the perfect thing. She saw it, thought of you and knew that you had to have it.

Do you receive the gift with unqualified gratitude? Or do you think, “Oh, no! I don’t have anything for her”?

We don’t know what exactly happened that first Christmas, but I like to I imagine that, if gifts were brought to the new baby, Mary and Joseph received everything with grace and gratitude. To do otherwise would have deprived the wise visitors of the joy of giving.

This Christmas, when someone beams with joy as they present you that perfect something bought out of love, receive it with unqualified joy and gratitude.

The joy of giving doesn’t depend on the joy of receiving.

Advent Wreath with candles for Hope, Peace and Joy lit.