Have you ever read a book that you come back to again and again? Hands down, I can say that “Pillars of the Earth“ (by Ken Follett) is my favourite fiction book and I’ve possibly read it 10 times! *grin*
“Simple Abundance: A daybook of comfort and joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach (pronounced “Bon Brannock”) is the non-fiction book that I return to over and over again. It sits constantly on my bedside table. I bought it in May 2009. I know this because, like the good Virgo gal that I am, I always write the date in my books! I have the 10th Anniversary Edition, published in 2005. There are 366 daily essays, one for each day of the year.
“In this daybook of comfort and joy you’ll discover 366 evocative essays–one for every day of your year–written for women who wish to live by their own lights. In the past a woman’s spirituality has been separated from her lifestyle. Simple Abundance shows you how your daily life can be an expression of your authentic self. Every day, your own true path leads you to a happier, more fulfilling and contented way of life-the state of grace known as… Simple Abundance.”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked through this book over the years. Some years I’ve dipped in and out of it. At other times, like my academic years (2012 to 2015), when I didn’t read anything except academic literature, it languished, forgotten in a bookcase.
I see that the pink cover is creased and crinkled. The corners turned up and worn. The spine is faded from too many years in the sun. The edges of the books bristle with post-its and page markers. One day it will fall apart in my hands and I will be sad. When I run the pages through my fingers, handwritten notes in a rainbow of colours flash before my eyes. If I leave it open, it naturally falls to the 19th July essay “Carving out time for personal pursuits that bring contentment”. I wonder why? A constant reminder from the universe to remember to make time for myself perhaps?
In 2015, when ‘reading’ for the PhD and the related studying was behind me, I indulged in the simple pleasure of reading for fun again. I “re-discovered” Simple Abundance (like it was lost, but it was really on my shelf in my bookcase) when I did my very first 100 Happy Days project. It was like seeing an old friend after a long separation. Comforting, familiar.
Since January, I’ve read every essay. If I’ve been away (sadly its too big to take travelling – maybe I need a Kindle version?), then catch up with essays I missed when I get home. I added a daily marker in the form of a small metal ruler adorned with a pink ribbon and a small square of card with a computerised mandala on one side and the word “Peace” on the other.
As I progress through the year, I find lost bits of myself. I unearth something new in the pages every time I read it.
Nothing can be perfect – even a favourite book. There is one thing that irks me a little. It is written from a Northern Hemisphere perspective and I live in the Southern Hemisphere where our seasons are opposite. When Sarah talks of winter or autumn pleasures, I’m basking in the baking sunshine. But… and here’s the good thing. Next year I will be living in the Northern Hemisphere after 18 years and that gives me a superb excuse to go through the book (again!) and experience the seasons as they are intended. I wonder what that will be like?
Sarah writes from the heart and takes me through her own journey to Simple Abundance. She had read widely and researched deeply. One of the things I like most is that she tells stories about the people she has read, about their lives. When she mentions someone I’ve actually read, I feel a connection between the two of us. Clarissa Pinkola Estes or Robert Tisserand for example.
I’ve always been an avid reader, but until recently I read mostly fiction and novels. I think my first book about someone real was “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. This year, for the first time, I’ve started following up on some of the people Sarah writes about – researching their writing, their lives and books. Sarah’s stories have encouraged me to broaden my horizons and to find out more about people and their life stories.
And do you know what else I did this year? I’ve indexed her essays as I’ve been working through the book. I’m sure she didn’t index the essays on purpose. But I find so much wisdom in them, that I like to return to certain days and re-read them. I cannot do that without an index. I’ve made up themes and written the day numbers under each: authenticity, creativity, harmony and so on. The pages I’ve written the index on is looking worn and well-used but as I am nearing the end of the year and the book, I’ll leave it as it is. The paper has a certain character about it.
I have never had a connection with a book like I have with this one. My friends tease me about how much I refer to and quote from it. To me, it feels like a soft snuggly blanket that provides warmth and comfort on a cold day. Like a trusted old friend I can turn to when I need support, inspiration and laughter. It’s a book about ordinary days in ordinary lives: “a daybook of comfort and joy”. It is one of the things I do every day that brings me delight and joy!
This year I have travelled my own Simple Abundance journey with this book as my companion. And that story is one that has yet to be written. But I’m going to start the draft in November as part of NaNoWriMo.
Tell me about books you have a connection with. Which ones do you return to again and again? Why?
This post is part of my new Living Joyfully series