I’m Positive


Several decades ago I read a novel by Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I was in my precocious young adulthood, and my world view was simple: the Soviet Union, and Russia in particular, were the enemy, and there was nothing good there. Solzhenitsyn was an exiled dissident, so I was interested in his perspective.

Knowing he had been exiled, I was surprised when I read a passage in which he affectionately described the beauty of the Eurasian steppes, and the countryside of his homeland. I was struck by the realization that the dreaded country of Russia could include scenes of nature that would tug at the heart of an exile many years later. That realization has stuck with me ever since, that a place can be beautiful regardless of the national boundaries and polity that encompass and seem to define it.


Today I find myself in an uncomfortable time. Between politics and pandemic, climate changes and economic concerns, hatred and greed, life often feels overwhelmingly depressing. As a concerned citizen, I need to be aware of what’s going on around me, near and far, so I can react accordingly — donate, vote, petition, act.

But a steady diet of chaos, evil, and confusion doesn’t feel healthy.

An antidote

As one antidote, I am trying to be positive. To be sure, I’m not ignoring reality, or putting on rose-colored glasses. I’m simply looking around for small evidences of beauty, normalcy, and stability that the actions of the universe reveal to me.

Recently I noticed two things that provided me with a few moments of relaxation and encouragement. They were not dramatic, but that’s sort of the point: I can derive pleasure from small things.

I don’t expect you to be “wowed” by these examples. But I hope they will encourage you to broaden your own perspective, and seek joy in small delights.


Hickory nut shards
Hickory nut shards

Two days ago, I walked, barefooted and painlessly, down my back stairs to my “pandemic office” at around 7AM. Three hours later, as I came back up the stairs, I was struck with an unexpected sensation: pain. Specifically, pain in the soles of my feet as I navigated the stair landing. Keen observer that I am, I quickly deduced that I was stepping on sharp fragments of hickory nuts.

In the short time I was downstairs, some local squirrels apparently decided that finally the hickory nuts were ready to eat. Whole nuts have been falling on the deck for the last few weeks, but apparently the ones in the tree were not fit to eat, until rightnow!

At the time, I thought that was mildly amusing, but little more; I filed it away in my “interesting things I’m not likely to write about” brain folder.


Butterfly on a bush

Then yesterday I saw the butterflies. Jasper and I were in the part of the back yard I call the “frisbee field” playing catch as we do most every day. At one end of the field, there are a couple of butterfly bushes . They have been modestly showing off their delicate purple flowers for the whole summer. But today was the day two butterflies decided it was finally time to cavort around the flowers, and (I presume) pause to drink some nectar, or whatever it is that butterflies do when they land near a flower.

Between the timing of the squirrels and the timing of the butterflies, I was reminded that the seasons are changing, despite the everpresent heat of August in North Georgia. Oh, I’ve already noticed other, more subtle changes recently — the slow displacement of the shadows in the yard as the sun gradually moves lower in the sky, and the two scrawny trees in the backyard that always start dropping leaves just a few days after the Summer solstice, like they want to be first in the annual Falling Leaves Contest.

But for some reason this year, it was the confluence of the squirrels and the butterflies that reminded me that there is more to life than the significant (but definitely not all-important) issues that threaten to give me a bad case of the blues if I fail to figure out how to counter-balance them with positive observations.

It was while watching the butterflies cavort that I thought of Solzhenitsyn, and the beautiful steppes of his Russian homeland, and decided I would focus for a few moments on the important benefits of observing the world around me, finding beauty and joy, thinking positively, and writing about it.

Ukranian Steppe photo
Ukrainian Steppe

7 Responses to “I’m Positive”

  1. Brant Beene says:

    Well said. Here’s another thing that will make you happy as you lose yourself in it – Johnny Rawls playing Red Rockin’ Chair on his open back banjo, clawhammer style. Look it up.

  2. Ross Friedman says:

    Thanks, Carl: That was lovely. And as one who steps barefoot on hickory nuts–or maybe they’re acorns–at the neighborhood pool (where I swim, read, and play the banjo alone at my corner table), you have made a connection. Stay well.

  3. Weyman Johnson says:

    Dear Carl,
    Thanks for including me in this mailing. Reading a two-week old newspaper this morning, I saw a keen observation that the writer said she’d learned from talking with John Lewis. Hope is not an attitude or a conclusion about the evidence we’ve seen. It’s a practice. I find that true of so many activities. Religion is not an equation you solve to find truth. It’s a practice. Like yours of positivity. Thanks again for your thoughts and your sharing.

    Your friend,

  4. Randy McDonald says:

    Pleased to read that you are up and about! And you deserve the hickory nuts! 🙂
    Only teasing. Glad to read that you and Jasper are out too. Unhappy I missed your return phone call Friday, Odie Garrison and I were at lunch with one of my college classmates, Ed Kofron, a long-time friend, and I didn’t hear it…nothing new for me, I suppose. Let me know when you can go to lunch. Truly happy you’re doing so well.

  5. Edwin Hall says:

    Well done, Enoch. Pleasant to read, well crated prose. A reminder that it is so easy to overlook the small examples of beauty and joy all around us.

  6. Barb says:

    Thanks for including me! I’ve noticed the early signs of the changing of seasons too and it feels like awakening that I’m craving. Tell Jasper his neighbor says hi!

  7. Craig MacKenzie says:

    I remember meeting you about 48 years ago. You weren’t wearing any shoes then!

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