Beauty and Positivity Project
I’d been watching the news coming out of China for a few months about a mysterious new SARS-like respiratory disease. It wasn’t too long before the World Health Organization (WHO) noted it with concern and then shortly thereafter declared a pandemic. March 16, 2020 became my last day working in the office as the State of Oregon sent everyone home to work remotely starting on March 17.
When everything shut down to ‘flatten the curve’, I think we all thought it would be a few weeks, or, at most, a couple of months before SARS-CoV-2 was eradicated and we’d be able to return to some semblance of normality in our lives. Two months later, it was clear that estimates and timelines were unreliable at best and that it was likely that things would never return to their pre-pandemic state. Anxiety and uncertainty were now common to virtually everyone.
With all of that, it was clear to me that we all needed something positive to consider and appreciate on a daily basis. So, exactly two months after we’d been informed that our offices were closing until further notice, I began this effort to post something every day to my public Instagram account (and mirrored to my private Facebook account) that is “beautiful, calming, serene, funny, joyful, or in some other way a boost to those that might view it”. That’s how I described it on that first post on May 16, 2020.
I had no idea just how long that kind of thing would be needed or that I’d still be making the daily effort to select a photo or video, write something about it and post it almost two years later.
As I edit this for publication, I’ve made 719 posts that have included diverse subjects such as deserts, canyons, mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, oceans, beaches, pets, domestic animals, wild animals, sea life, plants, flowers, gardens, produce, food, sunsets, sunrises, weather, clouds, storms, snow, rainbows, trails, paths, lighthouses, bridges, baseball, fall, winter, spring, summer, floating, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, camping, memories, and campfires. Selected photos and videos have included aerial and underwater sources in addition to the standard terrestrial perspective. Photos have ranged from wide-angle panoramas to close-ups. Videos have been short clips and timelapse. And for a change-of-pace I’ve converted some of my photos into paintings via artificial intelligence (AI)-—what I like to call AI artwork.
Through it all, the pandemic has been the backdrop. But it was certainly not the only challenge we faced in the past two years. Here in northern Oregon, we also endured historic wildfires in September 2020, similarly-historic ice storms in February 2021, and record heat in June 2021. Whatever unsettling and anxiety-inducing events we faced either individually or as a community, I continued to try to find something beautiful or positive to share each day that allowed us to express gratitude.
I don’t get a ton of likes and even fewer comments, but I know the posts reach well beyond what I can document as I’ve had people tell me in person that they love seeing the posts every day even though I’ve never seen a like or comment from them on the actual posts.
While I try to post something every single day, there have been a few times where I’ve missed a day or two (or three). In some cases that’s been because I’ve been off-the-grid with no Internet access. And in all but one case I’ve made up for the missed days with a multi-post day. That one exception is when I was readying a place to live near us for my mom and then moving her from the other end of the state to here. I think I missed a week there and I just picked up again after the break.
At a bare minimum, I post a photo (or video) with a title and at least a sentence describing that item. If I’m feeling particularly inspired or energetic, I might post multiple photos or a multi-panel panoramic image and might even write multiple paragraphs with my thoughts on what the image might tell us and what life lessons we could draw from it. Or maybe I’ll include some educational detail about the subject. But it really depends on how much time I can make available, how late in the day it is, and how tired I might be at the time of posting.
The dominant theme in my posts is the beauty of nature. Within that larger theme, I tend to favor most often sunsets with the occasional sunrise thrown in for good measure. In some cases I’ve featured human-created works of art like lighthouses and bridges. Other times I feature activities that we may enjoy out in nature.
There have been some milestones along the way, particularly in the way of nice, round numbers. But a few others seemed significant to me for other reasons. Here are the milestones I've noted with links to the actual posts.
In these anxious and uncertain times we're now living in people need positivity in their lives more than ever. I've decided that I'll try to share something every day that is beautiful, calming, serene, funny, joyful, or in some other way a boost to those that might view it. To that end, here's my first selection.
Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, warm mid-spring day with a bunch of puffy white clouds in a brilliant blue sky over Keizer. So I went for a quick flight to capture some of that.
Camping food. There's something about camping that makes food prepared outside extra special and delicious. Maybe it's the clean air or the hunger brought on by increased physical activity in the great outdoors.
Whatever the case, I thought the peppers and onions beginning to be grilled for incorporation into an amazing fajita spread were even visually appealing with their bright colors.
Summer waterfalls. I've mentioned it a number of times in the last 200 days, but I'll say it again--waterfalls are an amazing creation. Not only can they be visually stunning, but the sound of the rushing and crashing water can wash stress and anxiety right out of you in a matter of minutes. And the refreshing mist can be a great relief on a hot day.
This is South Falls in Oregon's Silver Falls State Park nestled in the northern Willamette Valley. I took an impromptu hike there in mid-summer 2018 and enjoyed it thoroughly. And even though it's not Wednesday yet in this time zone, we're only about an hour from that. So happy Waterfall Wednesday to you.
And can you believe that I've been doing this daily post for 200 days now? Neither can I. But I'll keep at it if people continue to find value in it. Let me know what you think.
"The Sun Sets on 2020". As we wind down what has truly been a challenging year for almost everyone I thought it might be nice to watch a time lapse of a coastal sunset from a week ago and metaphorically see 2020 to the door.
Hope is a very powerful motivator in humans and as we turn the calendar page to 2021 and watch the sun rise on the new year we're optimistic for brighter days and a better future. That, together with other positives such as gratitude and kindness will serve us well as we stand up with resolve to the challenges that we continue to face.
So let hope become brighter and brighter in your heart like the light increasing with the sunrise of a new day. Be kind to others and yourself. Stop to appreciate the beauty all around you. Be grateful for every good thing.
Amazing weather scenes. Since today marks a milestone in these daily infusions of positivity and beauty (at least it's a nice, round number), I was wondering how I could make it extra special. I noted how many of the trees and plants are budding and ready to end their winter dormancy with an explosion of fresh new leaves and flowers. I also observed the early flowers like daffodils looking extra vibrant with their rich yellow blooms. I even took a mid-afternoon flight to capture some of the thunderheads stretched across the sky and an evening flight to capture the sun's rays pushing through a hole in the clouds. But when making the return flight I noted an isolated rainstorm descending from a sunlit thunderhead and the brilliant end of a thick rainbow generated by those sun rays shining like a spotlight right on that narrow storm.
I've never observed a scene quite like this one and I only got one good shot of it before it started to rapidly fade. The scene is special to me and it's my gift to you today.
The photo from this post was featured on KGW TV's 11 O'Clock News weather segment on the same day.
One year of positivity, beauty, and gratitude. Today marks the final day of year one of these posts and tomorrow we'll continue into year two, because I think we all need something like this to keep us focused on the positive and as a reminder that there's so much beauty around us that we need to acknowledge and appreciate every day.
To mark this first year, I decided to make a collage of just a sampling of six photos out of the hundreds that I've shared this first year. I hope it reflects the variety of topics which I've chosen to highlight this year.
For year two, I plan on continuing the pattern with an image or video that brings a bit of positivity to your day and a smile to your face. If time and/or inspiration strikes me I may write something inspirational or positive to go along with the video or image.
Please contribute by interacting with these posts. You never know when your comment or appreciation may add something that another viewer may find helpful for their day. And at the very least I enjoy seeing your reactions and it give me the motivation to continue this daily exercise.
Warm island sunset. We're only two days away from the official start of summer and while this photo is actually early spring (April 2018), I thought it just might be colorful enough to mark this milestone.
It's hard for me to believe that I've been at this for 400 days now, but there's still so much beauty all around us that we need to take a few moments each day to acknowledge some of that and really reflect with gratitude. It can have an amazing affect on our psychological well-being.
What are you grateful for today?
Gratitude, positivity, and beauty should be a daily habit. When I started this little exercise way back in mid-May of 2020 we were already almost two full months into significant interruptions to the lives we were accustomed to as a global pandemic began to make inroads here in the United States. There was so much uncertainty, anxiety, and stress affecting almost everyone and I felt that a daily reminder of something positive or beautiful presented by way of photos or videos could give the viewer something to appreciate and be grateful for and as a reminder to look for similar things in their own lives.
I had no idea at the time that the pandemic and an array of disruptions of varying degrees would still have the world in their grip this far in the future with no clear end in sight. And yet, the principle still applies--look for the good, positive, and beautiful in each day and invariably you'll find something for which to be grateful. Take a moment to ponder that thing you've identified and to really appreciate it. You'll be amazed at what a difference it makes in your perspective right at that moment and in your attitude going forward. It can affect the energy you have, the zest with which you approach tasks and challenges, and even how you interact with others. Being positive greatly enhances our interpersonal relationships.
Sometimes it can be a bit of a chore to sift through my archives looking for something I haven't shared before--which I have to do if I haven't captured something new to share that particular day. And I don't always have something particularly encouraging or profound to write to accompany the photo or video, but I persist because I think there's still someone out there who's following this series that may have a need that day. I usually don't know because while a particular post may collect some likes, comments are fairly rare. However, some have commented to me directly how much they look forward to the results of my daily effort. And occasionally, someone says something along the lines of 'I really needed that today.' And so I persist.
Throughout these 500 days, I've found that this exercise has a great effect on my own attitude and positivity, so I persist. This year has been very challenging to me personally for a number of reasons and I need these reminders and this gratitude habit to mold by own attitude, so I persist.
This series has been seen by people around the globe and even featured a couple of times in an e-mail newsletter published by one of the leading newspapers in the United Kingdom.
How long will I continue? I have no idea. But at this point I intend to continue indefinitely. As I've stated, I still think there's a great need for sharing "something every day that is beautiful, calming, serene, funny, joyful, or in some other way a boost to those that might view it." That's directly from the purpose I set out on day one.
If you've benefited, please let me know. If you have something positive to add as a comment on any particular day, please do. Let's stack up the positivity each day.
Above the waves on a late fall day. After a couple of days of very stormy and very wet weather we were provided with a nice mid-November day with light breezes, sunshine and moderately warm weather. It's those kinds of days in which you're able to savor every perfect moment.
Can you believe this effort has carried on for 600 days now? Neither can I. I intend to persist indefinitely. It's now a well-established habit to look for the beautiful and positive things all around and cultivate an attitude of gratitude and appreciation.
Another milestone reached. Today makes 700 days that I've been producing these beauty and positivity posts. So to mark the occasion, I've created a short video looking back at the previous project milestones.
Please let me know what you think of this project and what you might like to see in the future.
From time-to-time thoughout this effort I've felt particularly inspired or had some life lesson I could draw from the photo I chose or the setting in which it was taken. In those cases I may have spent more time than I would typically to compose my thoughts.
In other cases, it was the response of those who viewed and/or read the post that made it notable. Here are a few of those "special" posts.
Decadent French fries. I actually ran across today's photo yesterday when I was looking for something to post. I'm glad I didn't use it then, because I found out this morning that today is National French Fry Day! And who doesn't like French fries?
The fries (and I use that term loosely--it's like calling a Ferrari a car) in this photo are by far the best, over-the-top fries I've had anywhere. They're the fries of which dreams are made. And they're found right here in Oregon (Ashland) at Brickroom, an amazing eatery upstairs on the plaza.
Brickroom has French Fries and Dirty Fries, but to reach all the way to this potato Nirvana you need to order the Filthy Fries where the humble spud is transformed into this otherworldly creation.
This amazing mound of deliciousness is worth the trip all by itself. The perfectly-fried thin-sliced potatoes are topped with parmesan cheese, banana peppers, rosemary, sage, bacon, and fondue cheese. I highly recommend not skipping any of those toppings, because some of the more unusual ones are the very components that push this appetizer into the Stratosphere.
I think I need to go find some comfort food (fries) right now.
A small flower blooming in dry ground. As I rounded the corner of our garage today I noticed a tiny, solitary pansy growing valiantly in an area of hard-packed dry earth.
I marveled at this pretty, diminutive flower cheerfully growing in inhospitable circumstances and it brought me joy so much larger than the plant itself. Yes, I noticed a few holes in the petals likely from nibbles taken by passing insects and the barren, parched ground all around it. But those challenging circumstances made the beauty it displayed that much more brilliant. And it seemed to me that this petite blossom provides an object lesson for us. Can we consciously grow and display as much optimism and beauty as we can muster despite the circumstances we face? If we can, we're likely to be happier and can provide a vision of beauty to others who observe us.
A perfect yellow rose. Even under a sky still thick with hazardous levels of smoke, a perfect rose glistens after it was watered and the ash rinsed off.
It's a good reminder--we too may be a little disheveled, but a little water can strip off the literal dirt and ash, a little rest and a new day can refresh and reinvigorate us for valiantly taking on future challenges. And helping others can likewise build a cycle of positivity that brings joy and resilience.
Inside the caldera. Most people, at least in North America, are familiar with Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. And while typical scenes of the deep blue lake with its signature island and steep slopes to the water are world-famous, other perspectives inside the caldera as viewed from lake level are relatively unknown but with an incredible beauty all their own.
Take for example these two shots from August of 2011 (as with most of my captures from that time period taken with an early Fujifilm digital camera) and notice the rich water coloration reminiscent of tropical seas and the varied colors of the geologic formations composing parts of the caldera walls. This place is a geologist's dream and it's visually pleasing to us more casual observers as well.
This reminds me that things can look very different from a new perspective. It might be good to consider that the initial appearance of something might not accurately reflect what it is, so it's good to look at things from different angles.
A giant happy face on a hillside made of trees. You'd have to agree that seeing a massive happy face formed by the fall colors is likely to make you smile, and that was the intent of those who planted the trees on that hillside outside of Grand Ronde, Oregon.
We'd seen it multiple times on our way back from the beach in the fall, but this that time in November 2019 we stopped for a few minutes to get a few photos of it. I hope you enjoy it this early spring day.
If you'd like the background story you can find it here.
There were at least a couple of days where it was necessary for me to push through some grief over the untimely death of some close friends when I heard the news on those days. With my feelings fresh and raw I endeavored to look for something that day that they would have appreciated and turn it into a tribute to their memory.
In highlighting these tributes, I remember again those friends who are no longer with us.
Rugged mountains. I've always loved the unique and stark topography of Mt. Washington and the colors of the crags and slopes. Add to that the clouds, reflection on the lake and the foliage at water's edge and you have another visually stimulating and gratitude-inducing natural scene.
I'm dedicating today's post to my friend Randy who passed away this afternoon. I'm sure he would have loved this view. Rest in peace, dear friend, until our master calls (John 5:28, 29). We should climb it then.
Memories of tropical sunsets. If you've followed these daily posts for any length of time you're sure to know how much I love sunsets. Each glorious new one adds to my memories of the days they conclude.
Today, I needed to post a Hawaiian sunset in memory of my good friend Todd who (I found out this afternoon) was tragically killed in O'ahu on Monday. He certainly never failed to appreciate the beauty that surrounded him on the North Shore, his ohana (whether by blood or by faith) stretched around the world, and his strong hope for the peaceful and secure world to come.
Aloha, my friend. I'll miss you. I guess we'll have to wait a while longer before we get to surf those amazing breaks together.
Right as I was nearing the one year mark, I realized that my day count was probably off by one, but I wasn't sure when I'd made that error. So I just continued with the count as it was until such time as I could hunt for the discrepancy.
While auditing the entirty of the project to document it here, I finally located that initial error count. But that wasn't all. I found two more count errors later. And in my post for Day 692 (the correct count) I explained where the errors occurred and how the correction was made:
So what's up with the day count? After all, yesterday's post was day 690, so you'd think that today would be 691 and you would be right. Except that it turns out I made a few counting errors along the way. When I got to the 365-day mark I knew I was a day off based on what date I'd started. Well, today I was doing a little audit of this project as I'm preparing a page for my website on the project and I discovered that I'd skipped day 202. I went right from day 201 to day 203. So that took care of that one. It meant the count was one more that it should be. However, I also discovered that I had repeated days 492 and 556. So the net correction is +1 (-1 + 2). So day 691 becomes 692. Did you follow all of that?
Comments and Reaction
I'd mentioned previously that these posts don't get a ton of comments. And, yet, after over 700 of them even a comment or two on each amounts to hundreds of comments. I didn't realize just how many there actually were until I'd gone through the audit. While there are many of the single word variety (like "Beautiful!", "Gogeous!", "Amazing", "Wow", "Lovely!"--and I certainly appreciate these reactions), it's the more thoughtful comments that reveal how this project has a positive impact on their lives that I really treasure and that motivates me to continue the daily effort.
I've had a number of people verbally tell me how much they look forward to these daily posts when I've seen them via video conference. And that's been from people who don't even take the step of "liking" the post.
One thing that's surprised me is how a particular post that I didn’t personally view as significant may strike a chord in someone else. As an example, after days of being inundated by thick smoke from the devastating forest fires last September here in Oregon, I had sprayed the ash off a rose and photographed the now-clean flower with clinging water droplets. That became my post for the day (Day 122) along with a little paragraph about resilience. Someone responded (to the mirrored post on Facebook) "Thank you for that reminder, needed it today" and someone else with "Best one yet!"
Just knowing that someone finds benefit in them gives me the motivation to continue. But I've also noticed that taking the time to select a photo or video and write something about it has affected my own attitude. Despite continued challenges in so many ways, I think my overall outlook remains quite a bit more positive than it would likely be without this daily gratitude activity.
Here are a few of my favorite comments which give me the motivation to continue:
Since I believe this project can actually have a number of positive effects on those who view it each day, I've endeavored to get the word out to give it some additional visibility.
Early in the initial lockdowns, The Telegraph, one of the leading newspapers out of London, England had started an e-mail newsletter called "The Good News Newsletter" to lift the spirits of their subscribers in the face of lives turned upside-down. It highlights uplifting stories and the various endeavors of people that were and are doing things to make the situation better. So I thought this project would be a natural addition despite the fact that it was from "across the pond". I messaged the editor when I was 55 days in and she agreed:
This little blurb appeared in the July 16, 2020 edition of the newsletter:
On day 300 (March 10, 2021), I featured a near-vertical rainbow and tagged a couple of chief meteorologists from Portland news stations. One of them, Matt Zaffino from KGW, featured the image and explanation of the phenomenon minutes later on his 11 o'clock weather segment.
Since day 300 was a milestone from my standpoint, I also took the opportunity to drop an update on the project to "The Good News Newsletter" editor. She seemed delighted and replied:
As promised, she included a few paragraphs in the March 18, 2021 edition of the newsletter:
I'd really like this project to benefit as many people as possible. To that end, I call on the viewers at the end of each daily post to share it with others that they think could use the daily boost. Up through day 499 (September 26, 2021) that call to action was:
If you know anyone who might enjoy a daily dose of positivity, please have them follow my public Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/billgrogg/
From day 500 to present, my daily call to action has been:
I'm sure you know others who would enjoy and benefit from a daily dose of positivity, so please have them follow my public Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/billgrogg/ and share that link far and wide.
So how about it? Would you like to share this beauty and positivity with others? Please do. Share it on social media, send the link via e-mail or text message, or even tell someone verbally. I would really appreciate it, and I think they will, too.