Taking photographs and documenting the changes in my garden as the seasons ebb and flow is one of my favourite simple pleasures. It's so easy to get caught up in domestic duties and home life that we can neglect what's on our doorsteps, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you reset your priorities on a regular basis and remind yourself that it's really ok to spend an hour or so doing what you love, then quite suddenly these simple pleasures become much easier to notice and make time for.
For me it's all about being at one with nature. I love to breathe in the scent of a balmy summer's eve as a light breeze caresses my shoulders. I love to scrunch my feet and feel the springy spikes of grass between my toes. I love simply sitting and watching as swallows swoop through the treetops and the dark shapes of bats appear as dusk falls. Writing is one way I like to document these simple pleasures, but photography comes a close second.
Often in the depths of winter I like to leaf through my albums and recall the heat of summer or the freshness of the first peepings of seedlings as they appear. You’ll often find me telling a nostalgic story about autumn days past, even when it’s only just spring, but the beauty of finding these simple pleasures is that they can be relived and enjoyed for longer than just that one fleeting moment. They also provide a reminder that whatever chaos and stress we are currently experiencing in our lives, the one thing we can rely on is the constancy of the changes in nature.
Time, inevitably, is always in short supply. So how can notice simple pleasures like these when life is rushing past so fast?
Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual, grab your camera or notebook and get outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in your pyjamas, bleary eyed and a little off balance – the whole point is to rebalance your awareness as the day begins. At certain times of the year you’ll be privy to the sunrise if you’re up early enough, and observing this primitive ritual is a stark reminder of a greater existence.
Actually take a lunch break. It’s so easy to just work through your lunch, not really taking in what you’re consuming. But an appreciation of food and the sustenance it provides goes further than just taking the time once a day, once a week, once a month even: all meals should be held sacred, and even if you just switch off for 15 minutes you’ll find you eat more slowly and mindfully and will really enjoy the food in front of you.
A trick I was taught to reduce my technology-related headaches when I was younger was to stick to a 20 minute rule: every 20 minutes make sure you look away from the computer or phone and focus your eyes on something far away – the further the better. Try the same trick and focus on something outside, or if you’re away from a window go and take a look out for a minute or two. Take pleasure in what you see, knowing that life continues outside of whatever you’re busy doing.
Set aside one evening a week (or just a few hours if you can’t manage a whole evening) to switch off those distractions and devices. Get rid of technology, turn off the TV and schedule in time to do the things you love. I find that sometimes the only way we allow ourselves this pleasure is if we actually add it to our calendars and decide in advance that this is the time we can do as we please. Go for a walk, read an inspiring book or get creative: just make sure you add it to your diary beforehand.
Document your simple pleasures. If you’ve already got a daily writing habit, start slowly and write just once sentence a day to capture something simple yet fulfilling that you read, watched, spoke about or took part in. Build up to a few sentences or whole diary entries if you like. You’ll find that once you start writing these memories down, you’ll start to look out for them a lot more in your everyday life, therefore having more to write about, and so the pattern continues…
What does your garden look like this month? What simple pleasures have you noticed today?
Eleanor is obsessed with stories. She writes for a number of online spaces including This is Your Kingdom, edits Creative Countryside, curates #aseasonalyear and teaches at Chalk House. In addition, she is currently studying for an MA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing. You'll find her roving the fields of the Lincolnshire Wolds or planning her next rural adventure.