“There is no one like anyone else, ever…For it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”
~ Oliver Sacks, Gratitude
Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my grandmother – my Oma – who was my last remaining grandparent. My Oma was a complex and intelligent woman, who experienced many struggles in her life, and who had a deep enjoyment of reading, especially poetry, essays, and books that made her think. She was also a talented and accomplished writer, and when I look out across my family – thinkers, writers, readers, linguists, teachers, wordsmiths – the shared history makes itself clear.
Funerals, like no other life event, confront with you thoughts of mortality and the meaning of life, and take you through this unique realm of family you don’t regularly get to see, people from your past, stories you’d forgotten, and the joys, sorrows, struggles, adventures, and mundane everydays that make up each individual life. It’s a liminal time where contemplation and reflection – soul work – feels important and necessary.
I spend so much time thinking and reading about nourishing the body (right now I’m reading No Grain, No Pain, by Peter Osborne – a useful read if you have any digestive diseases or discomforts, or think that gluten might be a problem for you) that I often forget to make space for nourishing the soul.
What nourishes your soul? I love poetry, photography (hence the fall sedum photographs, all from my front yard), reading beautiful nature essays, engrossing novels, making soup, chocolate chip cookies, playing piano, blog posts that give me perspective on life, books on happiness, and tea. Oh, and writing. I suppose that’s what this blog post is – a bit of a Tuesday outlet for my soul.
So here are five of the soul-nourishing options that I’ve been thinking about lately. Consider putting a book option on hold and giving it a read before bed (an excellent soul-nourishing time), or take this blog post and use it as a reminder to incorporate a little of your own soul-food this week, whatever that is for you.
- Wait But Why: Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel: Great title, no? What a cool concept. I’ll let the post speak for itself, and it’s a hugely worthwhile read, but the main point is: life is a series of Todays. Thinking about life only as exciting Tomorrows that are going to be so much better than our regular Todays is missing out on being present, and is ultimately missing the point. This wonderful post reminds us that thinking about life as a movie montage or a big picture with sweeping music, an overall theme and story arch, and whizzing frames that just blur past the hard, disappointing, or boring bits, just sets us up for regrets and unhappiness. We may find those epic stories in looking back on our lives, but the reality to make peace with is that no matter what, our lives are built brick by brick, Today by Today. And, our Todays might often just be “mundane Wednesdays.” What we can hope to do is make the best of our “mundane Wednesdays”, and so the post concludes with some tips for the scientifically proven things that actually improve our Todays over the long-run: gratitude, good health, satisfying and loving relationships, good sleep, and kindness/giving to others.
- Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks. This short, small book contains four essays written by Oliver Sacks in the last two years of his life. I read it cover to cover in under an hour and felt my soul had been warmed. Oliver Sacks writes so positively about aging (in the first two essays, before he receives his terminal cancer diagnosis) and then so beautifully, bravely, and honestly about the remainder of his life in his final two essays. It’s also a marvellous book to marvel about writing, and the power of words to reach out across the ethos and capture emotions you felt but weren’t satisfactorily able to express. This little book gave me new ways to think about the beauties in life, the gifts that we’re given (even those that don’t seem like gifts), and the magic of a dialogue with a good book.
- Upstream, by Mary Oliver. I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, and even though this is a book of essays, I can’t deny that reading it is like reading poetry – a luxurious pool of words that you spend time swimming around in. The book includes a wonderful essay called My Friend Walt Whitman, where Mary Oliver writes about poetry – and the experience of poetry – with such tenderness: “But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple – or a green field – a place to enter and in which to feel…I learned that the poem was made not to just exist, but to speak – to be company.” If this makes you wish to read poetry, try a few favourites: Whitman, for sure, and Mary Oliver, but also Wendell Berry, John Keats, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. All good and satisfying.
- Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve been trying to incorporate more grain-free options, to see how that sits with me, and today I’m trying these Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Against All Grain. I’m all for nourishing my soul by also nourishing my senses (and stomach). *grin*
- Herbal Tea: Lastly, if you’re looking for a new tea to try, consider fennel! It’s great for digestion, very soothing if you have any digestive issues, and it may also be anti-inflammatory, immune-supporting, and helpful for managing PMS symptoms. Plus, I love the licorice/anise flavour.
If you’re looking for other soul-nourishing and happiness-boosting posts, consider:
- The How of Happiness: 12 Strategies for Improving Your Happiness
- 5 Songs and 8 Ways to Start Your Morning With Joy and Movement
- 5 More Rockin’ Songs to Boost Your Mood and Make You Smile, PLUS Tips for Managing Stress
Thank you for allowing me to write about what’s on my mind, and for taking the time to read, even though this diverts from usual content. I’ll be back with more recipes soon. Until then, happy soul-nourishing!
“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercouse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
~Oliver Sacks, Gratitude
© Backyard Owl