Soulful September Sunday

2 Sep

by Rhea H. Boyden Sunday is a funny day. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it. It is supposed to be a relaxing and rejuvenating day, but living alone, it can be a bit lonely. I enjoy my time alone to read and write, and this afternoon I intended to do just that. I nestled down into my couch with a cup of tea and my book. The book was one of short stories by a woman author my age named Zadie Smith. I read her novel ‘On Beauty’ a couple years ago and I loved it, so I wanted to try this book too. I started reading the first story and became frustrated fast. She was talking all about a book she had read and I couldn’t quite follow the story because I had not read the book. I then skipped to another story. It also referenced lots of books and poems I had never read. This of course made me feel intellectually inadequate, irritated and then plain lonely, as I sat on my couch pondering how to continue my Sunday. ‘Why can I not just enjoy a book of short stories on a Sunday afternoon without getting riled up that I don’t know what she is talking about?’ I grumbled to myself. ‘Must one have read everything she quotes here to get it, or am I missing the point completely?’ I tossed the book aside, exasperated, and decided to check Facebook to cheer myself up. Checking Facebook did not help. I immediately stumbled upon the Facebook page of my old Secondary School in Ireland and then got lost in looking at pictures of the school and past students. I then felt extremely nostalgic and homesick. One of the descriptions of the photos said that my old school had first opened its doors to students in September 1972. ‘Wow, that is 40 years ago this month.’ I thought. ‘Where does the time go?’ I began to think of the old days at school and a tear came to my eye. Thinking of past loves, past haunts, and past pranks. I smiled through my wistfulness, choking back the tears and then managed to laugh at a couple photos. Talk about mixed emotions. I then suddenly thought of the book of short stories I had abandoned on the couch behind me. ‘Wait, was Zadie Smith not just talking about nostalgia and soulfulness in her story?’ I logged out of Facebook and returned to my book again eagerly to re-read her bit on nostalgia and soulfulness, ignoring the fact that I had not read the book she was quoting. Most short stories, as far as I know, are meant to be enjoyed alone with no prerequisites, so I am going to do just that. Zadie Smith says to be soulful is to be nostalgic and quotes the definition of ‘Soulful’ as: ‘expressing or appearing to express deep and often sorrowful feeling.’ She then goes on to say ‘soulfulness is sorrowful feeling transformed into something beautiful, creative and self-renewing.’ I suddenly felt happier and uplifted. It suddenly did not matter to me that I had not read the book she was talking about. I sat there and pondered why I was feeling wistful anyway, and how I could turn it into something creative? One plain reason must of course be the change of season, the chill in the air. That chill that makes you feel lonely, and of course nostalgic for warmer Summer days. That rustle in the leaves as the evening air blows through them. The leaves are clinging on to Summer too just as I am, in denial of the fact that they will soon be blown away. Zadie Smith goes on to talk about soul food which she defines as ‘simple, flavoursome, hearty, unfussy and with spice.’ Of course one of the soul-saving traditions of Sunday is the delicious food you can take the time to prepare on this day of rest. I am now very much in tune with Smith’s world as I read on and she says: ‘to be soulful is to follow and fall in line with a feeling, to go where it takes you and not go against the grain.’ This is marvellous advice. Especially for writers. Loneliness and nostalgia can be wonderful tools for writers. Not to wallow, but you can write yourself out of wallowing and process the feelings a September Sunday bring. First a big plate of soul food followed by an evening of writing. This Sunday has been a success after all, and I am sure I can face the darkening days as Autumn approaches. I can even set aside some time on those dark evenings to read the poetry Smith writes of and then go back and read those stories with a fresh perspective. A new season can bring new hope and new creativity. I have lots to read and process, lots of soul food to eat, and lots of writing to do.

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