From Michelle Obama to adorable Pupfish! It's your weekly JoyAt6 digest!

Welcome! I'm so glad that you're here!

This week's quotes came from:

A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, who is also married to the 44th President of the United States (spoiler alert - it's Michelle Obama);

and...Ingrid Fetell Lee, who is always speaking my language;

and...Bob Dylan, who wrote these words as a lullaby. He and The Band recorded it as both a well-known ballad and a rocker for 1974's Planet Waves. Both versions ring true, especially with sweet words like these;

and...Robert Frank, who passed away earlier this week. Perhaps most famous for his book The Americans, Frank's artistic contributions were many. If you've never heard of him, check him out. Here's what his contemporary Jack Kerouac had to say, "To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes." (Side note: our photo here is from a contemporary photographer and director, Jakob Owens. Why? Because this is a shoestring operation; I can't afford the rights to a Robert Frank photo!);

And, Susan Sontag. She was brilliant and complicated, and she wrote a great variety of essays, short stories, poetry, and novels during her prolific life as a writer and activist. This is one of my favorite lines, from I, etcetera (1978).

And, as always, there was plenty of joyful news to report! For example...

Somebody's on the road:

As Gail Rosenblum at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports: A Quest to Collect Stories of Kindness Has Driven Her to 47 States (and Counting).

This the story of Mary Latham, who lost her Mother, Patricia, to breast cancer in 2013. As she tells it:

In 2016 I took off on a road trip. It was a mission to honor some of my mom's final wisdom. That while there would always be tragedies, and horrible things that would inevitably happen in our lives, there would always be More Good out there...if we looked for it.

I decided to honor that by going out and finding it in every one of the 50 states.

I would stay with strangers to support myself emotionally and financially. I would drive her old Subaru to keep her close with me. And when I was done, I would put together my stories into a book I'd put back into hospital waiting rooms. For me, hospital waiting rooms signified the loss of hope. So I thought maybe, if I worked really hard, I could put a little hope back in those rooms for the next person who had to sit there.

You can learn more about this epic devotion to love, loss, and kindness here.

And...somebody gave a TED talk:

During Ingrid Fetell Lee's TED talk she makes several statements worth dwelling on:

How do things make us feel joy? How do tangible things make us feel intangible joy?

This question resulted from her work in school, and a 10-year journey into what she describes as the 'tangible world of joy'. In her own words, she was "The Nancy Drew of joy." In her journey, she found that:

The sharply divided, politically polarized world we live in, sometimes has the effect of making our differences feel so vast as to be insurmountable. And yet underneath it all there's a part of each of us that finds joy in the same things...they remind us of the shared humanity we find in our common experience of the physical world.


Joy isn't some superfluous extra. It's directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy is the drive toward life.

And...a guitar-slingin' astrophysicist does good deeds:

Do you know of the incomparable Brian May? You should. After all, as Queen's guitarist...he did...he did...rock you, rock you!

Do you know what he went and followed up hit Queen album after album with?

He earned a PhD?! astrophysics?! Yes. Yes, he did.

And, for his next act? As People, via MSN reports:

Queen Guitarist Brian May Helps Save Thousands of Tiny Hedgehogs: 'It’s One of the Greatest Joys' Well, of course it is!

And...Steve is most definitely NOT an aurora:

From Michael d'Estries's excellent piece on the Mother Nature Network:

Meet 'Steve,' a strange ribbon of light that appears in the night sky. The glow may resemble an aurora, but Steve is in a class of his own.

If you happen to see a vertical ribbon of dancing, flickering purple light playing across the sky of the Northern Hemisphere, fear not. It's just Steve.

That's right — Steve. The hilarious name comes from the Alberta Aurora Chasers, a group of aurora enthusiasts who discovered the atmospheric phenomenon in 2016. Unlike your standard aurora displays, which look like gently wafting curtains, Steve is more of a narrow arc of light.

The members settled on the unusual name in honor of the 2006 animated film "Over the Hedge," in which some woodland creatures name an unknown object "Steve" to make it appear less frightening. (Scientists later turned the name into an acronym, standing for "Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.")

Steve may appear similar to other auroras because it lights up the night sky when the sun's charged particles interact with Earth's magnetic fields. But Steve is definitely in a class of his own — especially with the spectacular show of dancing purple lights.

So, friends and fellow not afraid, it's only your buddy Steve!

Big JoyAt6 shoutout to Sherry & Steve - lifelong National Park Service superheroes - who have invested a lifetime of service to the relationship between human critters and the natural world. They still give their time, talent & passion in retirement. Thank you!

PS: They are also my Aunt and Uncle, who took the photograph and shared the news sources for Friday's JoyAt6, respectively. So, double Thanks!!

And...last but not least, some adorable inch-long fish got 'stranded' 1,000* years ago, and then had to survive an earthquake-spawned 'underground tsunami'...but, they are getting a boost from some human critters:

I guess we should start with this summer's earthquake. From Maanvi Singh's report for the Guardian:

Devils Hole pupfish – among the rarest fish on earth – know a thing or two about earthquake safety. After all, they managed to ride out a huge wave triggered by the recent tremors in California.

Found only inside an inconceivably deep, sweltering geothermal pool called Devils Hole near Death Valley, and numbering fewer than 200, Devils Hole pupfish are endangered, but not helpless.

As the 7.1-magnitude Ridgecrest earthquake ripped through southern California, it trigged a 10ft wave inside Devils Hole. A video released by the US National Park Service shows the wily pupfish swimming deeper and deeper into the water to avoid getting swept up and smashed.

“And if you study the fish, you can see that they seem to know that something’s going to hit maybe five, six seconds before it happens,” said Kevin Wilson, an aquatic ecologist at Death Valley national park. “It’s wild.”

So named because they reminded a biologist of overexcited puppies at play [ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! MOST. ADORABLE. ENDANGERED. FISH. EVER.], Devils Hole pupfish are not unused to earthquakes. Possibly because of its depth – divers have ventured more than 400ft down and not been able to see a bottom – Devils Hole responds to quakes as far away as China. But the Ridgecrest earthquake, which was the largest to hit the state in decades and was centered about 70 miles away, caused an especially violent reaction.

*Recent research now places the Devils Hole pupfish isolation at 1,000 years or less; the prior estimates ranged from 10,000-20,000 years.

You might suspect that the Devils Hole pupfish just can't catch a break, and you might be right about that. Even diving beetles seem to have it in for them. From Jason Bittel's writeup for National Geographic:

Brutal beetles kept world’s rarest fish from breeding—until now. Researchers have made a breakthrough in their effort to save the Devils Hole pupfish, which produced more eggs in 2018 than ever before.

So, if you're keeping score, these little fighters have: 1) survived a millennium of isolation from the rest of genus Cyprinodon (i.e., all the rest of the pupfish in the world; i.e., nobody ever found Nemo the pupfish, and he ended up in a place called DEVILS HOLE!); 2) a bunch of super-rude diving beetles constantly tries to eat them into extinction; 3) an earthquake almost blew them out of the water, literally; and, 4) there's even more stuff I haven't told you that threatens their survival. AND YET THEY SURVIVE AND ARE ADORABLE LIKE PUPPIES PLAYING!

So, all is not lost. Teams of human critters have been helping to conserve the Devils Hole pupfish, and they've been quite successful. Although the fish remains one of the world's rarest species, their numbers have climbed back into triple digits. The pre-earthquake adorable-pupfish-count for Spring was 136.

And that's a big number for these small fighters, so stay tuned. As Katherine Rivard writes for the National Park Foundation:

The incredible living circumstances, mysterious beginnings, and delightful pup-like movements of the Devils Hole pupfish make them an exciting fish to follow. Though the population has dropped over the years, those that know the story of the pupfish remain hopeful that new strides in research will be made to prevent this unusual community from dying out. Today, they remain an example of a beloved group of animals that continue to be protected in our national parks.

And, there you have it, loves! Another week spent seeking and spreading joy.

Thank you again for being here. As ever, here's to your joy!

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