A book to read slowly and savor. That would be May Sarton's Journal of Solitude, which I am reading along with my friend Cath. Earlier in the year we read Gift from the Sea together and chatted about it along the way. I thoroughly enjoy reading alongside other readers (no matter how near or far--though it's been many years since I've belonged to a in person bookgroup, so it's usually far rather than near), as they always offer a different perspective, some little seed to plant in my mind and let grow as I read. And I thoroughly enjoy reading diaries, so am happy to kick start my diary reading once again (something I hope to include in my normal reading on a regular basis).
I've got a little catching up to do, but there is no hurry with the book as I suspect we will be reading it into the new year. Diaries are the perfect format for dipping into--keeping next to the bed and reading a few entries each night or morning. I've got a few of May Sarton's journals, though this is the first I'll have read. I did read Sarton's novel set in academia, The Small Room, a few years back and quite enjoyed it always meaning to pick up something else by her.
The timing for this book is perfect. I've been sort of struggling with some things in life lately--I like solitude, but there is a difference between solitude and being alone. My life has lacked a good balance between a satisfying work, home and social life. I seem to have more stresses of late than really happy moments, though I think I am looking more for contentment (how many people are really truly happy all or most of the time?) than anything else. A journal on solitude should be quite illuminating, I think. I think the pursuit of happiness/contentment is an ongoing struggle, and I am always looking for different perspectives and experiences.
So a beginning. I've just read the first few passages, and thought I might share a few excerpts/teasers today.
"I am here for the first time in weeks, to take up my 'real' life again at last. That is what is strange--that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid."
" . . . sometimes one has to simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands."
"The reasons for depression are not so interesting as the way one handles it, simply to stay alive. This morning I woke at four and lay awake for an hour or so in a bad state. It is raining again. I got up finally and went about the daily chores, waiting for the sense of doom to lift--and what did it was watering the house plants. Suddenly joy came back because I was fulfilling a simple need, a living one. Dusting never has this effect (and that may be why I am such a poor housekeeper!, but feeding the cats when they are hungry, giving Punch clean water, makes me suddenly feel calm and happy."
"Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world, in feeling myself a part of it, even in a small way."
I'm convinced it is the small things that makes one happy. But you know how it goes--so easy to buckle under the normal stresses and frustrations that seem to build up over the course of days and weeks. So, I try and find balance and keep things in perspective. Now that is truly a work in progress. I am looking forward to reading what May Sarton experienced and what her "journey" was like.