For me, the ingredients are simple and straight forward. First of all a chance to read, to spend time with my mind drifting to the furthest shore, to go back in time or forward, and then back again, to visit faraway lands, to feel the sting of loss or the triumph of truth or the swell of a heart, all through the pages of a book. Perhaps also to study a new subject, or to relearn an old one. To reflect on the issues of the day. I still read the ‘old fashioned’ way – real books, with covers and pages, even actual newspapers, dirty-finger producing, paper crinkling, awkwardly sized as they might be.
The second thing? Just some family time. Unhurried, unscheduled, no clear agenda, no places to be, no times to keep. There is a simple and calm joy in those moments, rare as they are, almost a quiet wonderment, a lightness of being and a poignant feeling of gratitude. Just to be together. To celebrate, without word or ritual, or even thought, the powerful connection that binds us to those we love.
And also to spend some time outside. Preferably during the liminal moments of the day, dawn or dusk, the sun rising or falling, the colors changing, the unmistakable sense that the world is moving beneath your very feet. To mark the wind and see – yes, see – the air. To hear the sharp bark of a dog, the rustle of a breeze, the subtle song of a bird. To notice how an acorn falls from a tree, or how the nose of a rabbit wrinkles again and again, wondering if the scent of danger has arrived. To walk in quiet thought, pondering, musing, considering, and also wondering – how is it that this great world in all its beauty is somehow connected to me?
Last but not least, to play my guitar. Not particularly well, of course. But just to strum the strings and form the chords, to juxtapose the majors and minors, to pick a simple melody which has been picked so many times before, for so many years. Perhaps to play a song I’ve loved, and to hum along, occasionally forming the words in my mind. There is something calming about it to me, almost meditative. The world outside recedes, the troubles and tribulations and sorrows and sadnesses begin to fade. For the song is eternal. It was always in the world, just waiting for some unknowing person to pick up an instrument at just the right time, so the song can, ever briefly, find a home. It may stay for a time, a generation or even two, and then it will go back to the place from whence it came. But while it dwells with me, in my hands, in my mind, in the sweet spruce and dark mahogany woods of my guitar, it brings a sense of soul-calm.
But soon the guitar must be laid aside, the song let go. Darkness has fallen, somehow the day is coming to an end. And the dog must be walked! A last dish or two attended to. And if I hurry some time, at the very end of this day, to go back to my book.