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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bright Spots

Two very bright spots, indeed, though
 now a lot older...  Nick and Teddy
helping to plant our first garden.
Over the last few months, we've tried to move away from the barrage of media that we are faced with every day.  For example, we no longer have cable or even watch the major networks.  If we really want to see it, we either have it on DVD or can get it.  My main window on the world comes from the radio - NPR and the BBC - or online sources.  Unfortunately, the news that we are getting this weekend is tragic rather than just informative.  We are reminded that even in places that we might expect to be bastions of peace and tranquility, two words I've always associated with Scandinavia, there can be sudden events that sadden and shock.

So, what can we do when the news of the day, or even just events in our own lives, brings us down?  Look for the little bright spots that populate our lives every day.  I may sound like Pollyanna (a very exemplary and somewhat underrated individual in my opinion), but there really are so many things to be glad about.  When you find yourself wanting things that you can't possibly have (like a long, leisurely trip down the coast to Southern California, stopping along the way to sightsee, walk along a genuinely warm beach, visit the Steinbeck Festival...  sorry, getting carried away here...), look at what you have surrounded yourself with.

Just this morning, Melissa and I took a little break and drove to a nearby farmstand to buy raspberries.  It's a short drive, but it takes you along a winding country lane, past a few farms and a charming house or two, as well as the masses of blackberry bushes that my sons and I will visit in another month (they are master pickers!).  The raspberry canes and pastures are bathed in the warming sun, bees buzz and a gentle breeze blows.  You walk from the lane, through a fragrant herb garden, to the little stand where kind, friendly people offer you samples and smiles.  You buy one of the nicest things on earth- sweet, plump, red raspberries - and you eat them with your favorite person ever.  A bright spot in my day.

Our favorite raspberry stand on Beacon Drive
in Eugene, Oregon.

Just a little later, I drove four boys (two sons, one nephew and our baby, Max) to a local park to play.  On the way, Max fell asleep.  This gave me the perfect excuse to sit on a blanket reading, under a shady tree, with a sleeping baby next to me.  The park was filled with happy sounds, and a breeze coming up from the nearby river rustled the trees.  When Max awoke, he seemed ready for action, so I put him in his favorite swing and watched as his little mouth gave a most delighted, toothless smile, his hair tousled by the wind.  Another bright spot.

Thankfully, we all have things in our life that bring us happiness and joy.  Maybe it's a favorite walk, a special friend, a book or a movie, a picture or a room, a song, a blend of tea...  Whatever it is, there are days when it is especially important to recognize these little things and revel in them for awhile.  So often, these truly pleasure-giving things are free, they are easily accessible and, because of their familiarity and obviousness, are overlooked.

Finally, a real life example of just how easy it is to skim over the wonderful things around us...  When I walk through my house or my yard, I invariably look down.  I study the floor - the little bits that my many children leave on the carpet, the dirt tracked in, the scratches and chips on the painted wood floors - or the lawn - the weeds, the bare patches, the candy wrappers.  Each morning as I stumble into the kitchen, I notice the sugar that's been spilled (does LIFE cereal really need sugar?) on the floor.  The toast crumbs that have been brushed off the counter by a six year old trying to make his own breakfast and to "clean" it up.  The Strawberry Mini-Wheat that I’ve just crushed…  You get the idea.

There have been days when I have consciously decided to STOP looking down, but instead to look straight ahead.  You know, it’s a completely different view.  The kitchen is not just a messy floor, it’s sunlight streaming in through century-old windows, cheery red checked curtains and paint the color of green milk glass.  The living room isn’t carpets needing a vacuum and a floor that needs to be repainted, it’s books that I love to look at, pictures chosen for special reasons and views toward the woods or into the garden.  Just like life…  We spend so much time looking down at the imperfections, that we forget the beauty that surrounds us.
I hope you’ll take a moment to look around and see something soothing or comforting.  Something uplifting or enlightening.  Something that just makes you happy. 


  1. Hi Jake,
    Just a little hello to introduce myself. I saw some of your posts on Susan Branch's blog and decided to come visit you here. What a wonderful place! You are certainly blessed with so much to be happy about! A talented wife and 8 precious children to Love and grow and teach and give wings to! And I lived in Olympia, Wa for a year so I can imagine how beautiful your part of the country is! My husband Sam and I now live in Tennessee near Cumberland Gap. Where Tennessee and Virginia and Kentucky all Kiss! Where Daniel Boone lead pioneers to the western frontier. Sam was in the Army for 20 years so I have seen many beautiful historic places in America. Looking forward to getting to know you here!
    ~Janie Osborne

  2. Thank you so much, Janie! We are glad you are here! I'd like to learn more about your part of the country. I've only been to Virginia, but loved it.

    You are lucky to have seen so many places. It's a dream to pack the kids up and drive around the country one day.

    Take care,