On the blog this week, for the 30 Second Reflections I post each morning, are some excepts from some of my 'compass books'. One, an anthology of Christian poetry, I brought shortly after I started going to church. It has been opened a hundred times or more and spoken to me in big ways and small of how I am feeling right in that moment.
I've also collected women's poetry and writing for a long time. I love this old Penguin collection because it draws together the writing of women back to ancient times right up to modern day and from women all around the world. It got me into the Japanese poems of the Manyoshu, short little poems filled with images of summer blossom and love, and to writers from closer to home like the gloomy and atmospheric poetry of Emily Bronte.
Sometimes these little books have seemed to speak directly to a question I am asking. In this little anthology of women's spiritual writings I read an except from the diary of Florence Nightingale shortly after my 30th birthday feeling simultaneously overawed by the approach of starting work as a Vicar and also part wishing I was more, well, normal! It read,
''I am 30, the age when Christ began his mission...The thoughts and feelings that I have now I can remember since I was six years old. It was not I that made them...But why, oh my God, cannot I be satisfied with the life that satisfies so many people?'
That quote wasn't an answer to the things I was mulling over it just gave a sense of solidarity. A sense of solidarity that someone else wrestles with the same thoughts too and someone as brave and bold and extraordinary as Florence Nightingale!
I think that is why these books are so precious and what they are all about for me. Not answers, but guides. Not the destination, but signposts. And we all need those things. We all need the occasional person, or poem, or piece of writing to nudge us on the way of the journey through life that only we can make and that no one else can make for us.
So how about you, what are you 'compass books'? I'd love to hear from you!