The Secret Life of Trees and What It Means for Humans

By Angela Noel

June 8, 2017

When we first moved into our house I sat in my backyard gazing up at the canopy of tree branches overhead. Two trees, their trunks big enough around that two adults with arms outstretched couldn’t encircle them, blotted the sun. For reasons I cannot explain two names popped into my brain: Erin and Bertie. I told my husband and son the trees had names. Not that I had given them names, but that they already had them–like they’d accepted me into their community as one of their own. (Weird, I know.)

Among the oaks and cottonwoods that dot the rest of my little wooded lot, Erin and Bertie are special. A fact, Suzanne Simard, noted forest ecologist, professor, and TED speaker would find not-at-all surprising. Her work, and those of other researches around the globe, has opened up a greater understanding of the complex and beautiful world of tree interdependence. How trees communicate and contribute to the common good of the ecosystem in which they live has a lot to tell us not only about nature, but about ourselves as well. Continue reading “The Secret Life of Trees and What It Means for Humans”

Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work

By Angela Noel

June 1, 2017

The man works on a car–fixes its engine, buffs the exterior–long hours of loving pains.

Maybe he smokes a cigar. Maybe he drinks a light beer. Or maybe it’s Pellegrino.

Maybe he has a family–a son, a wife. Or maybe a daughter, the apple of his eye.

Maybe he writes sonnets that touch the infinite in a journal hidden among the tools in his garage. Or maybe he listens to mixed tapes of Madonna and Beethoven on an old, grease-stained boombox.

Every day . . . every hour . . . he loves the car more. Each bead of salty sweat escaping his brow is a tear dropping. Continue reading “Mechanics of Art and Poetry of Work”

Strength and Dignity: The Power of Choice

By Angela Noel

May 25, 2017

Charlie, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, unwraps only the tiniest morsel of chocolate each birthday, hoping to make the treat last as long as possible. He nibbles off just a corner—just a taste—each day. Joi Campbell isn’t a fictional English boy living in a shack with four bedridden grandparents. But she’s as careful with her story as Charlie is with his chocolate. And her story has hidden depths, flavors, textures, meaning, and significance just as important to the world as Charlie’s birthday treat was to him.

Joi revealed her life to me in small pieces, inching closer to a deeper truth about who she is and what made her into an extraordinary, resilient, and delightful human being. Some of what she said made me uncomfortable. Because truth can, and sometimes should, hurt. I wanted to feature Joi because her smile lights a room. She always has a kind word, and she’s exceptionally good at truth-telling with both empathy and grit. But now I know better: Joi’s all those things, yet so much more. Continue reading “Strength and Dignity: The Power of Choice”

What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong. Continue reading “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”

Come Play With Me: A Writer’s Wish

By Angela Noel

May 11, 2017

Words, Come Play With Me

Sun-warmed pine reminds me of home and mountain vacations. I want to write like evergreen smells.

My husband’s heart beats steady and strong when I lay my head on his chest, ear pressed against skin. I want to write like his heart sounds.

My son sighs when he snuggles into the crook of my arm for bedtime. His contentment and mine fuse like a warm blanket. I want to write like these moments feel.

Clean water rushing over my hot toes cools and tickles. I want to write like the water flows.

The petals of wildflowers on tender stems weave and nod when bees visit or wind blows. I want to write like these flowers play.

After three hours of errands, a tired glance at the mirror reveals inside-out pants. The snorts of my laughter scare the dog. I want to write like life is laughing with me. 

Creators weave unique tapestries with universal threads. We mine the diamonds of memory to touch the divine.

Your turn: What are your favorite things? What diamonds have you found?

Write a Love Letter: How you Can and Why you Should

By Angela Noel

May 4, 2017

To feel love and to express it boldly without expectation of return requires tremendous courage. The word courage originates from the Latin word for heart. Not the organ itself, but what it represents–the living room for our feelings. In my original I Want Your Love Letters post I ask readers of my blog to pen a letter to anyone he or she loves or admires–friend, teacher, lover, mentor, parent, bus driver, coach, sibling–anyone. Each writer of a love letter demonstrates the essence of heart. Every one of the letters makes me smile and fills me with a kind of quiet inspiration. And I want more.

For this post, I’ve gathered these letters together to celebrate the writers and their loved ones. I also want to invite others, like you, to contribute your love letters to the collection.

Write a love letter and I’ll publish it on the You are Awesome blog. It’s as simple as that. Continue reading “Write a Love Letter: How you Can and Why you Should”

Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious

By Angela Noel

April 27, 2017

My mother-in-law, Karry, makes a bread that tastes like the intersection of pound cake, cinnamon sugar donuts, and the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. It’s so good, my son wanted me to save some so he could invite his friends over for a slice, and my husband and I had an uncomfortable stand-off over who should eat the last piece. (He won—but only because I didn’t tell him I wanted it. I just stared at him while he popped the crumbly, chocolate chip-studded morsel into his mouth.)

This evanescent bread, a variant of Amish Friendship Bread, has a mission beyond being delicious.

Surprising no one, I hungered (pun intended) for more. Continue reading “Amish Friendship Bread: More Than Just Delicious”

How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“How’s your son? How’s Jackson?” Danny asks me, almost every time we meet. Danny and Jackson have something in common. They’re both “only” children. Often I’ve wished for a better way to describe my son’s lack of siblings. Being an only child has cultural baggage for both child and parent. Even the way we describe only children, as if they are by turns selfish and lonely, feels messed up to me. Particularly because my experience with the sibling-challenged has universally been positive. Several friends of mine grew up without a sibling. Each of them are among the most independent, generous, outgoing, thoughtful people I know. Danny is no exception. Continue reading “How One Connects to Many: An Only Child’s Story”

Creating Community by Reaching Out

By Angela Noel

April 13, 2017

I practice hot, sweaty yoga. I love the quiet, dark room filled with other people. We start and end each session in savasana, or corpse pose. The yogi leading the practice provides an intention, the only voice in the room, as we begin. He or she might share a quote, a song lyric, a poem, or a riddle. I’ve both giggled, and allowed tears to flow. There’s something about yoga that opens up possibilities in me.

No competition. No expectations.

Akin to a spiritual revival, the bunch of us sweat together, breathe together, slurp quantities of water after six sets of chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose) together. But this feeling of community doesn’t happen by accident. Continue reading “Creating Community by Reaching Out”

Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth

By Angela Noel

April 6, 2017

“You know,” my dad said from his living room in California, “for that You are Awesome thingy you do . . . maybe you could ask people about speaking truth to power.”

“Tell me more.” I held my phone to my ear, enjoying a peek of springtime sun three-thousand miles away.

“Well, in my career (he’s retired) I never really gave much thought to whether I should say something, I just said it. And it got me in trouble, even fired. But, it’s really important. Especially now. So, I want to know how people do it, and do it well.”

Separated both by geography and sometimes ideology, my dad and I do agree on many things. We both, for example, believe societies big and small–families, workplaces, neighborhoods, countries–need healthy, well-informed debate by people that care. We believe respectful discourse among equals brings clarity, if not agreement.

But, there’s that whole power thing that mucks things up.

Continue reading “Speaking and Listening: The Power of Truth”