The last few months have been a time of unimaginable change. Who could have imagined that vast numbers of people would be working, learning and socialising from home. Who could have imagined that in the twenty-first century a virus could cause such widespread social and economic pain. Who could have imagined we would be drawing comparisons with the Spanish Flu pandemic of a century ago. In times of uncertainty and anxiety, it is the little things that can restore a sense of calm and hope. For me, it is my morning routine of quiet reading, reflection and writing.
Today’s book snap features some of the things that are essential to my morning routine – a candle, a book and a cup of coffee. Plants are optional, but I find that they soften the hard edges of our indoor environment, exude an air of cool calmness and bring a hint of the outdoors inside. Starting the day with a time of reading and reflection helps to quiet my mind before the rush of the day begins. I feel more ready for whatever the day may bring.
It might seem funny in our modern world, with electricity at the flick of a switch, that we are still captivated by the glow of a lit candle. I have quite a candle collection. Most have been gifts, but some have been bought from specialist candle shops. The range of designs and scents is almost endless. Some are so beautiful it seems a shame to burn them but a lit candle emits a glow that no electric light can match. It sets the mood for a time of quiet, a time for reflection.
Throughout the day I am called upon to do all sorts of reading, but the morning read is set apart for something reflective, thought provoking, something that feeds the soul. It is usually non-fiction, something that invites reflection about the choices we make, the attitudes and values we choose, and our place in the world. This week I will be starting Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. It is a book I have wanted to read for a while and I was quite excited to find at the recent Lifeline Bookfest. This edition has an introduction written by Al Gore, who says…
Silent Spring came as a cry in the wilderness, a deeply felt, thoroughly researched, and brilliantly written argument that changed the course of history. Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all.
Silent Spring was first published in 1962, before I was even born. Will I be able to say that we have made progress or will the environmental issues of the early sixties still ring true today? How will I reflect on our current lifestyle and what changes will I feel compelled to make?
An important part of the morning routine is recording the thoughts, main points and quotes that stand out to me. I don’t use anything fancy – just leftover exercise books covered in left over wrapping paper. It makes them look pretty. I also have a special journal that Bec gave me for Christmas, together with a matching pen. It is always interesting and insightful to revisit these journals at a later time, to remember the things that stood out to me at that time and to reflect on how I might think about that same issue or idea further down the track.
I wish I could say that my morning routine is carried out in total blissful solitude but unfortunately that’s not my reality. While it might start in solitude, it isn’t long until Dan has entered the room and reading, reflecting and writing is interspersed between instructions to pull your chair in, slow down, and be quiet. However brief the actual solitude may be, I know that the time spent in reading and reflection pays dividends for the rest of the day.
Social distancing and isolation has meant that some people are experiencing way more solitude than they would like, while some of us are lamenting our lack of it. Wherever you may fit on the spectrum, there are positive benefits to making the most of the quiet moments available to us. Some of these include increased empathy, productivity and creativity, plus providing opportunities for self-reflection and future planning, as well as building mental resilience (Amy Morin, 2017).
One of the interesting things to come out of this pandemic is the positive impact our self-imposed isolation is having on the environment – cleaner rivers, less pollution. Perhaps we have an opportunity here to actually make a difference in the way that we structure our society and interact with the world around us.
May you find some solitude, peace and hope in the anxiety and chaos of life at home.