Happy little trees. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world full of happy little trees—branches waving as you pass by, the sun always slanted at the right angle, and life rolling on like a lazy river? Bob Ross lived this way, both in life and in art. And in the 80s and early 90s, if you tuned in to PBS on any given Saturday, his happiness could make you happy too. And though he is no longer on air, his words seem most necessary now in the politically and socially fraught world in which we live. And so, here are five Bob Ross aphorisms to help you live that happy tree filled-life.

“Exercising the imagination, experimenting with talents, being creative; these things, to me, are truly the windows to your soul.” 

So often now, life is about domination. Find the skill you are best at and then tunnel your way through to the top. But exploration and experimentation round out a person. They offer a chance to try without the expectation or demand of success and that is no small thing. It is freedom at its most fundamental level.

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.”

It takes practice to see the world with an appreciating eye. To travel well-worn roads and jobs and relationships like a voyager in a new land requires an active resetting of the mind’s eye. But to view the ordinary like it is novel can shift your world view dramatically. It makes your curious, awestruck, and grateful for both the familiar and the new.

“You need the dark in order to show the light.”

Bad things happen. Bad things happen in large doses. And yet, we must still carry on. Often the worst of the worst leads eventually to good, and perhaps better, things. There is nothing better than excising a splinter and feeling the sweet relief of the absence of pain. This is true in all the literal and metaphorical senses. Eventually, the darkness magnifies the light.

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”

Kids believe this easily enough—that anything is possible. Adults though, we’ve suffered rejections from jobs and people that peel the layers of positive thinking off until we are left pared down to the bare minimum of hoping. We become practical to a fault. And yet, what would it look like to shift our view of the cosmic universe so that we see it working with and not against us? What would it be like to hope with parameters?

“We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

Not all mistakes feel happy at their inception. But if you consider where those mistakes have led you, into the life you are living now or the one you are wading your way towards, then perhaps they were happy accidents. Bob Ross could turn a misshapen tree into a waterfall into a bird and into a tree again. Mistakes lead to change. And change leads you onward.

We can’t teleport back to the eighties to acid washed jeans and scrunchies and after school snacks and no responsibilities. And we can’t catch Bob Ross every Saturday like we could as kids. But we can still catch the spirit and live a life a little freer, a little happier, thanks to him. 

“We don't make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at Jamie-Sumner.com