Books as life rafts

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. ~ Caitlin Moran

Forlorn and adrift on the sea of life; I flounder.

No longer daughter, mother, sister, granddaughter, daughter-in-law; my ego plunges into the classic existential crisis – if not that, then who is this ‘I’? The identities that gave the ego a firm structure where it could reside with comfort and confidence, vanish into the whirlpool of the relentless hunger of “life’s longing for itself”.

Stripped bare, languishing with the flow, the ego in abeyance, waiting, watching, wondering.

I recall the story told by Og Mandino. Reading books in a public library saved him. Homeless, destitute, and about to end his miserable life, he walked into a public library to pass some time before the gun shop next door opened. He sat and started to read, then came back the next day, and the next, turning his life around to become an author, speaker and motivator.

Lovers of books and reading know the power of the written word and that’s what keeps our noses inside books. But why are the words of others more influential than the words we might string together ourselves? They aren’t! The thing is that when we find ourselves in a state of despair or confusion, often due to circumstances not of our making (such as the death of a loved one, or two), then we might be incapable of making our mind do anything beyond grieve.

This is when the words of others offer a lifeline. Throw us a book and we will use it as a life raft. It doesn’t matter what book. Some might say it needs to be a religious book and that would be fine. But really, it could be anything. Works of fiction are perfect because they allow our mind to escape. It gives us a holiday from our own dismal and repetitive interior and whisks us away to another land and time.

As a long time reader of self-help books I can attest to the fact that this genre does not help at these fragile times.

As I steer my life raft to safer waters, these are the books that buoyed me over these past few months: 

*   A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

*   Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping

*   The Gospel of Joy by Amanda Gore

*   Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

*   Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

 But really they could have been anything. I would have liked to have re-read Echoes of the Early Tides by Tony Moore but my copy is packed away in a box somewhere still. I am about to plunge into Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes.

Walking in nature

One strategy I intentionally employed with the objective towards handling the grieving process and retaining a positive outlook on life is to walk in the natural environment.

I know that just being in amongst nature, absorbing the sights, sounds, textures, and smells lifts my spirits and reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things.

I love the chaotic unpredictable asymmetrical and beautiful variety of nature’s garden: the choir of bird calls and insect buzzing; the extensive palette of green; the movement of leaves, grasses and dust particles; the unusual flowers; the occasional animal; and the absence of manmade ugliness.

Susan at Pillar Point

So I did and it has. I’ve walked the trails of the Mornington Peninsula and recently some of the rugged walks at Wilsons Promontory. The vistas at ‘The Prom’ are awesome (in the true sense of the word). The greens, aquas, and turquoises of the crystal clear waters sparkle like a precious gemstone. The wind roars like an oncoming freight train. The rocky monoliths stand in perpetuity – daunting shapes remembered from my childhood visits. The beauty fills my spirit and soul. Petty squabbles dissipate. My love of life abounds.

Back in December as I sat in the hospital room beside the waxen corpse of my deceased father on the morning he died, I received the words into my head “Just enjoy your life!” I’m sure this was a message for me from my Dad’s departing spirit, as he knows my serious nature more than most.

Tidal River Duck Race

And Tidal River is a place where adults can let their inner child run free. The group of people we went with really know how to enjoy life with childish abandon without the need for alcohol or drugs. They are a bunch of mostly retired fitness nuts. So we had running relay races on the beach. We rode the waves on body boards. We had a duck race and a boat with egg passenger race on the river. We laughed. We looked for wombats at dusk and rose at dawn with the birds. We snorkelled the rocky shoreline, walked and ran the trails, and relaxed in water holes in the river. We had a heap of fun.

So yes Dad I am getting on with enjoying my life.

Echoes of the early tides

Australian surgeon and author Tony Moore, has written two books that explore the healing process eloquently. Cry of the Damaged Man tells of his near-fatal car accident and how this changed his attitude to patients, whilst trying to heal his own physical injuries. Echoes of the Early Tides is the sequel that goes on to explore the healing of his spirit.


The descriptions in Echoes of the Early Tides are often abstract as he describes the uncertainty of navigating around the dark pit of grief that often threatens to overwhelm him, or those that find themselves in similar territory. It is all at once heart-breaking, depressing, hopeful, and eloquent. He states, “There is no sound more agonising than the breaking of a human spirit, and there is no sound sweeter than the pulse of its recovery.” His daily walks along the beach frame this exploration of the traumatised psyche, using the changing moods of the sea as metaphors for understanding.


A walk along the beach or sitting in the sand dunes amongst the spiky tussocks soothes my soul when I feel overwhelmed by life’s complications. With the big wild sky above and the sea so large and alive stretching out beyond the horizon whilst simultaneously falling at my feet, it is impossible to dwell on the trivialities of daily gripes.


Tony Moore begins, “I will need to be brave.”