Tiny, beautiful surprises

The paint is peeling, but the flowers are stunning. Sorrento, Italy, May 2008

“For me, the first part of celebration is noticing.  I find that it’s easy for me to get stuck in what’s broken or wrong with a situation, instead of seeing the beautiful parts of it, too, or that I move so fast I don’t see anything at all.  These days I’m trying to notice everything, to live slowly enough to see what’s unfolding around me, and especially to look for the tiny, beautiful surprises even in the midst of wreckage and ugliness.”  — Shauna Niequist

Last week I wrote about celebration, inspired by Lucille Clifton’s poetic invitation to rejoice in survival. Adding to that theme, I return to one of my own favorite topics: finding bits of beauty to celebrate in everyday life.

One of the great things about travel is seeing what is universal and shared all over the world. I can’t remember ever visiting a town or country that did not show evidence of people deliberately seeking to add loveliness to their surroundings, no matter whether the backdrop was gorgeous or sorely in need of a makeover. It seems human nature that most of us strive for improvement– in ourselves, in our homes, in our workplaces and our communities. Watching for signs of such charming benevolence is a sure way to beat back the bad news blues.

Before the flowers of summer start to fade (or as your winter slowly warms into springtime), I hope you will go on a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood, or anywhere else you may happen to be. Look for the tiny, beautiful surprises Niequist is talking about– whimsical banners adorning lawns or mailboxes, pots of flowers blooming on doorsteps, children playing or people strolling or jogging by, adding signs of life to the landscape.

It’s so easy to focus on what is ugly or broken. There are times when it takes effort to find something worth celebrating, but it’s an effort that will pay dividends and train the mind to defend itself against the never-ending onslaught of negativity. Though I’ve been training my mind to do that for years now, with varying degrees of success, it’s like any other sort of exercise; it requires constant diligence. But it can be fun, too.

I invite you to join me! What surprises are brightening your world today?


  1. I love Mondays! One of my favourite quotes is by Meister Eckhart: “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”

    • I just love your cheerful take on Mondays! I really needed to read that right now. The quote is a great one to remember, too. Tomorrow I get to start all over again. Thanks for brightening my mood!

  2. Good morning, Julia! I just love it!
    Yes, there are forces around the world, beautifying our environment, from people like Myriam Paslier, who participate in “Free Art Friday” in France, to my daughter Jill, who joined friends to “Adorn Phoenix,” to all sorts of people acting as individual agents of blessing! (Oh, another example: people who blog about beauty! 😀 )

    • Susan, thanks for mentioning bloggers along with more talented types such as artists and musicians. Actually there are some really talented bloggers out there too, but I don’t count myself among them. However, this blog has been a real blessing to me, and you are one of the reasons why. Thanks for being here!

  3. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. We have a beautiful sunrise in Garden City, one mixed with clouds and shades of pink. I was on my porch very early to raise my two umbrellas that provide some shade as the day (and temps) progress. Our mailbox area that has become a bird feeding station most of the day in the midst of the wildflower garden that Bill planted is delightful for us as well as others. It’s a story in itself that I’ll save for another day. When we noticed a little girl run over and pick a flower on Sunday, I told her parents that she was welcome to pick a bouquet. 🌺 I am quiet observant of my surroundings, so much so that it’s earned me the nickname of “Nosy Nora”. I feel sure I’ve mentioned that before! I think it’s so important to be interested and stay involved….. in life! 💛🌞 Thank you for this post! Hi to Matt!

    • I loved reading about your umbrellas and your mailbox bird feeder complete with wildflowers and a story waiting to be told. Anybody with the nickname of “Nosy Nora” is a person after my own heart. I agree with you…I’ll take curiosity and involvement any day! I’ve heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. From where I sit right now, that seems more true than ever. Thank goodness for all the people who care enough to notice things others pass by. ❤

  4. Elena

    I am usually not bad at finding beauty… whenever I remember to look for it!
    I ought to be more intentional.
    Thank you for the reminder 😊

    • Elena, you are welcome. I need continual reminders, it seems. Thanks for being here!

  5. Harry Sims

    Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.— Step Two

    I came.
    I came to.
    I came to believe.

    I looked around me and recognized all things bright and beautiful and realized that the good Lord made them all.


    • Harry, I’m glad the 12 steps have helped you so much!

  6. Judy from Pennsylvania

    On my neighborhood walk last evening, I was a distance behind a neighbor who has a little white dog with a big fluffy tail that had been dyed fuchsia pink. The tail bobbed to and fro in the rhythm of the walking and it said “Look at me, I have a happy life! I’m going for a jaunty walk, a happy walk! No worries, just sniffing the fresh air and the grasses, just living in the moment!” It made me smile. And then another neighbor greeted me as I walked by, and I stopped to hear her latest jokes and pet her very big, very old dog. Going for a walk last evening was a good thing for adding some much appreciated joy to the day. Walks, dogs, nice neighbors — all good for the soul! (remember the book Chicken Soup for the Soul?)

    • Judy, what a totally cool idea to dye that dog’s tail pink! Sounds as if it went perfectly with the personality. I agree, walking and visiting with neighbors and their dogs is a fabulous way to spend some time, very good for the soul AND the community. Thanks for sharing this with us. Maybe I can meet those canine neighbors in person someday! 🙂

  7. Sheila

    Sunday afternoon is delightful here in Garden City with the gray clouds over the ocean, cooler temps and lower humidity. It’s hard to believe we’ll be on the September Verandah before you know it! 🧡 BTW, if you like grapes you may be interested in a recent find, Candy Hearts Grapes and another sweeter one, Cotton Candy Grapes. Might as well talk food, right? Mainly, wanted you to know I was thinking of you! 👋🏻

    • Sheila, our weather today was beautiful and it sounds as if yours was even more so. Those grapes sound very interesting. Are they purple grapes or red grapes or green grapes? (Don’t tell me they’re pink or I’ll KNOW they are candy 🙂 ) I’m up for talking food anytime, especially when there is some nearby to eat, hee-hee. I’d better go make myself some herbal tea before I break my resolution not to eat so much at night…Thinking of you too, always with joy and gratitude! ❤

  8. Mike C.

    The heat wave is taking a toll. Yesterday it was 95 and today the same. I wonder if younger people adapt better to such a temperature swing. In Seattle I remember very few days over 80 degrees.

    • One thing I liked about Virginia is that the fall weather seems to come much earlier up here than I remember in Georgia. Having said that, we are supposed to have temps in the 90’s this week which is not typical at all for mid September. I think I would love the Seattle climate even with the rain. But I might need to sit under a sun lamp or something to keep from getting depressed in winter. I don’t like heat but I love sunshine.

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