Life can get complicated pretty easily. I have a few things that ground me. Two of them are daily sunrise salutations, however brief, and the world’s best commute, where the landscape is different every day. I also have a few go-to books that bring me right back to seeing the joy that is here, free, and available to anyone who wishes to partake.
Personal pleasures, by Rose Macaulay
This one just goes to show that some things don’t change. It was written in 1936. Somewhere I have an early elegant hardbound early edition, but it’s my reissued paperback I resort to most frequently. Macaulay is not a casual, comfortable read, she is a bit formal, maybe even stilted (she wrote in 1936, after all) but how can you not love an author who describes a daydream as though it were real. Her essay titled “Elephants in Bloomsbury” begins:
“Can it be true, or do I dream? Driving at the dead of night (if night can ever be dead) through Tavistock Square, can it be that I discern in the street before me a herd of elephants?”
The pair of essays called “Bed: Getting into it; Not getting out of it” suggests “Slug then in sloth, and languish in delights, while the day breaks and shadows flee away.
Other essays include: “Cows,” “Hot bath” “Chasing Fireflies” and “Talking about a new car.” Her voice is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and a lyric celebration of the mundane.
“Showing off” begins: “What is that you say you have done? Walked across Jamaica on your hands? That is nothing at all. Besides, it is probably not true. I once rode a dolphin across the Messina Straits…”
Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity and Other Indulgences, by Barbara Holland
The second decade of this millennium has a refreshing appreciation of our world, but also a big heavy cloud of self-consciousness and the need to be politically correct. Writing in the 1970’s-1990’s, Barbara Holland saw this coming, and celebrates some very NOT politically correct sources of pleasure. Her style is a bit sassy, and much more casual than Macaulay’s–think Mad Men. Her list of essays include: Bed, Gardening, Happy Hour, Seasonal Food, and Getting Older.
Her preface states: “Subtly, in little ways, joy has been leaking out of our lives.…Back in the dawn of things, those who dawdled on the path smelling the flowers and smiling at the sunshine didn’t last long enough to hand down their genes.”
She starts her essay “Whistling” with: “’Anyone can whistle’, according to Stephen Sondheim, but I never could. As a child I wanted to, desperately. I thought if I could whistle it would spread open and light up my whole life and make me a different person.”
These two women, who knew how to enjoy every minute, have helped teach me the joy of the everyday. Whenever I have houseguests I leave my slightly tattered copy of Endangered Pleasures on the pillow, with a little edible treat. I hope they both provide simple pleasure.