Years ago I met a friend for a walk in the woods on a trail neither one of us had ever walked.
There was snow on the ground and the trail blaze, a white swash of paint on the tree trunks, was difficult to see against the snowy landscape. With each twist and turn, we had to look, really look, and concentrate to find the next marker.
Next Saturday is National Trails Day and it reminded me of that walk. And that reminded me of how hard it can be to see the good that exists in this ever changing, often difficult world.
So I decided to do something about it.
I created a good things journal ... to start a trail of good.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about that journal in my Sunday newsletter and a few of you said you were going to start a good things journal. If you've been thinking about it, but haven't started yet, don't have a book to write in, or find the idea of filling an entire journal a bit overwhelming, try this: the Good Things Zine.
A zine (pronounced zeen) is a mini book. You can download and print it ... the whole thing is on one side of one sheet of standard printer paper, folded into a book.
If you're not sure how to fold a zine, here's a link to a short video. I've included a dotted line to help you know where you need to cut the paper. And as you fold, be sure to fold edge to edge and create crisp, accurate folds. It will make a difference in the final steps.
I hope you'll make one and blaze your own trail of good things. Print, fold, and fill one. Then make another.
Alarm bells sounded high and low, all around the pond. From a distance we heard the persistent screech of the blue jay, then the urgent squawk of a duck, and as we neared the pond, the bong-bong call of the frogs.
What, we wondered, was going on?
Stopping at the edge of the pond, we scanned the water, the trees, and the sky, listening and looking.
And then we saw it. A big owl, a Barred Owl (yes, we had to look that up when we got home), perched in a tree on the edge of the pond.
I'm not sure if the frogs were sounding an alarm, mating, or doing what frogs do, but the duck and the blue jay were visibly agitated. The ducked paddled frantically from one area to the next squawking all the way. The blue jay, in full screech with fanned tail, was swooping down at the owl ... from the left, then right, again and again and again.
But that owl.
Talk about composure. It flicked an ear and spun its head at the bluejay's aggressive fly-by graze, but otherwise it remained still. Focused.
Fascinating stuff ... and the final entry for the day in yesterday's good things journal:
3. the owl in the woods
I started the good things journal last month. A list of three good things I see, experience, do, or feel during the day. Every day.
It's a matter of semantics, really. Like me, you've probably seen the prompts to keep a gratitude journal (and maybe you already do), but somehow that never materialized for me.
Until I read about a "good things list."
It's simple. I keep a small notebook and pencil within ready, on a table in the living room. The idea is to make a list of three different good things you experience every day. Short entries, a few words each.
Here are some of the entries I've made (with the original numbering):
3. clean sheets
4. trip to the library
5. takeout pizza from Otto
2. raking the yard
1. the sun is shining
2. almond flour chocolate chip cookies
4. Wordle in two
1. a good night's sleep
2. got the laundry done
3. the own in the woods
Like the owl, despite the unexpected swoop of outside influences, I've remained focused.
One entry at a time ... on the good.
And yes, it feels good.
Sometimes I write one thing at a time as it comes to me during the day, other times I write my list at the end of the day. And more often than not, once I get started, I'll remember something and add that to the list, coming up with not just three, but four or five, sometimes six or seven good things about my day. Not monumental, over-the-top exciting things, but small pleasures that, in remembering and recognizing them, make it a better day ... today and tomorrow.
Exploring the art and writing of short story memoir