Hey America, how are you doing this week? Maybe not so great. Maybe feeling a little, I don’t know, anxious? Perhaps you’ve been startling awake at night clutching your midsection that throbs with some kind of thudding ache, the kind that is only one of two things: existential dread or an ill-fated decision to get the egg salad sandwich from the vending machine.You might have noticed your own dark mood fits snugly against the dreary horizon of national gloom like some kind of deranged Bob Ross landscape scene. “And maybe there’s a happy little fallout shelter tucked back there in the sleepy pines.”
I can’t say that I’m feeling tip-top as of late. I listen to the incredibly smart, experienced people with a zillion years of international expertise who do not work for our government talking on NPR about how this kind of thing routinely happens when you have an amoral, despotic leader in power and Kim Jong-un is no day at the beach either. No one should push the panic button (or any buttons, Jesus!) yet. I am not convinced. My palms are still damp. My general sense that we are living in America: The Series Finale remains.
But today I came to a stop at a busy intersection that straddles an area of town bisected by a river. Pedestrian trails snake along big, open spaces of green that shoulder up against the river. On a good day there are still no less than a hundred ways to get into a car accident at this light—cars run the yellow all the time, others trying to turn left cut off oncoming cars, and bicyclists whizzing in and out of traffic add a whole other set of challenges.
When the light turned green I motored ahead only to have to stop just on the other side of the intersection behind a car that had jacked on its brakes. Eye-roll. Great, what the hell was this? I thought.
That’s when I saw a gaggle of geese waddling across the street like groggy toddlers. A jogger running on the opposite side of the street dashed out into the road and proceeded to “scooch” the geese along to gently speed the crossing. Let me tell you something about geese: they are ornery mother f*^%ers. They are not like the dignified, matronly, Puritan women wearing little bifocals and knitted shawls portrayed in charming cartoons about farm animals. They hiss. They spit. They firmly believe that they can mess you up. I have never stuck around too long to test that theory. Here, they casually crossed the boulevard, the jogger lightly herding them to the sidewalk. When all parties were out of harm’s way, we resumed speed.
We stop for geese. We even make sure geese get safely to the other side. Right now these are not small things. Mr. Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Scary ass things in the news: Level-Expert. Help comes in many forms, like taking a minute to log the good stuff we encounter every single day. Pay attention to these things. Scoop them up and cradle them in your palms like pieces of rare sea glass. Collect them and pour over them at the end of the day to affirm: people are kind, beauty and wonder exists, we can still have nice things, good stuff is everywhere. Here are a few I’ve picked up this week:
Free Libraries: I came across this adorable free library in a lakeside neighborhood. Books matter; they are escape portals; they are the vessels of happiness and inspiration that never run aground. Free libraries living in the wild are like funky book trees—what amazing fruit just begging to be picked.
The Great British Bake Off: British culinary writer Mary Berry is the grandmother we all secretly wish we had—smart, lovely, and always at the ready to shove a biscuit or tea cake in your face. Though this show is technically a baking competition, it really feels like a group of nice people hanging out in someone’s back yard baking for a week. Everyone is so pleasant and supportive: “Oh bother. I feel so badly that Nigel’s rolls didn’t puff up for him. What a shame.” It’s beautifully hypnotic. This show is lowering my blood pressure and reaffirming my faith in humanity and carbs.
The Indigo Girls: Admittedly, things were simply going better for a lot of the country in 1995, so this music scores high on the nostalgia scale. But that aside, the songwriting is stunning—gritty, smart, layered—the musicianship fantastic, and the harmonies are glorious. I’ve been listening to a mix CD I made of their tunes years ago in the car where I also, may be, a little bit, kind of, am living out my fantasy of being that third Indigo Girl they never knew they needed (Amy, Emily: if you’re reading—call me). Belting “Closer to Fine” at the top of your lungs while stopped in traffic or sitting in the supermarket parking lot can’t cure everything, but it helps a lot.
The Scoop and Scootery: This is a magical, genius invention dreamed up by two enterprising college youth from one of the local universities that is an ice cream delivery service (repeat: DELIVERY). I’m not talking about pints. I’m talking about ice cream sundaes arriving right to your goddamn door. Hand. To. God. The whip cream is handmade and not even a touch wilted when the cheerful driver hands over your brown paper bag like a dairy dealer. Astounding. If I could nominate these youths for a Nobel, I would. They are bringing joy into our lives while capitalizing off of our collective stress eating. I respect that.
That’s only a fraction of good stuff caught in my net—there were also sunsets, conversations with good friends, live music, bird song in the morning—it’s an embarrassment of riches, really, with so much more to gather. My hands are open, I’m ready.