One might think that Julia Baird and her publishers at Harper Collins had a crystal ball and glimpsed into the future, with the very timely publication of Phosphorescence. If there is one book you need to read right now, as the world seemingly spins out of control… this is it.
Phosphorescence is a beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.
Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to the science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?
And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?
Absorbing, achingly beautiful, inspiring and deeply moving, Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times. Her writing is utterly sublime, polished and poetic. The book is delivered in chapters such as ‘Lessons from a Cuttlefish’, ‘She Trashed her Golden Locks’ and ‘Growing by the Light of the Moon’.
In ‘Bathe in Nature’ Baird writes how “A love of nature is coiled within our bones, laced in our marrow, steeped in our blood”, before going into how starved of nature we’ve become, and thoughts on how to address it. After reading it, I sat in my small urban garden, sunlight on my face, taking in the trees, COVID-19 a million miles away. This book brought me peace.
That is the beauty of this profound book. It transports you into all the deep, inner yearnings you’ve had for a long time, and then articulates them for you. I do crave nature. I do crave silence. I do want to recognise the ephemeral. In ‘Honour the Temporary’ Baird reminds us of how transitory everything is – everything passes and in these trying times, this alone is the most important thing we can remember.
Phosphorescence will now sit on a small pile of books beside my bed… those well-loved books with battered pages from reading over and over. The books that have moved me deeply. I could rave about this gem of a book forever. Instead, I went online and ordered copies for a number of friends. We need this book. You need this book. It is the perfect gift for us all right now. It is perfect.