A clear shining, after the rain

image: abbytrysagain

Summer is upon us, despite the rain here in London, and in a couple of weeks I am heading off to Greece for my annual holiday amongst the white washed cottages, fresh air and olive groves of the beautiful islands I spend all year longing for. This year we are trying Lefkas for the first time, and I am excited to see how the way of life and environs compare with the other islands I have visited before.  I am also salivating in anticipation of the delicious food; fresh fish, juicy olives, creamy honey-drenched yoghurt, flavoursome stifados and crisp, addictive pans of glossy baklava…I really cannot wait to touch down on Greek soil, and enjoy the sun, the endless stretch of sparkling Mediterranean Sea, and the cobbled streets populated with black-clad, wizened women who nod and smile as you pass them in their doorways. It’s such a different way of life, and it helps London centric, ever busy and rushed and on the go me to slow down, relax, and drink life in, savouring my brief release from the hectic pace of my everyday routine.

While I lie on the beach with nothing to do but enjoy the pleasant sensation of sun warming my skin and listen to the sound of waves lapping the shore, my mind is free to roam and wander, and seize upon new ideas and adventurous plans, inspiring and encouraging me, helping me to see where changes can be made, and dreams accomplished. Holidays are always as much a rest for my mind as my body, and taking the time out from my ordinary existence does always help me come to important decisions. All of my biggest personal upheavals have taken place shortly after a holiday, as it is only while experiencing the true peace I find when I am free to be myself, away from the usual confines of my job, my friends and family, and my various responsibilities, that I am able to see what I really want from this life, what is important to me, and what I am truly passionate about. Buoyed by fresh enthusiasm and courage, I then return home determined to make a change, and before I know it, I’ve got a new job, or moved house, or applied for a course. Last year, my post holiday change was starting this blog.

Yes, this time last year this blog was born. It’s been a tumultuous year, in which I have experienced a good deal of unhappiness, disappointments, and frustration. Figuring life out is hard sometimes, especially when you want as much from it as I do, but now I feel like I have come into the clear shining after the rain, when everything becomes fresher, richer, brighter, more verdant, more alive, somehow. And this blog has been part of that process of emotional healing. My life isn’t all doom and gloom, I can’t claim that; I am blessed in many ways, and lucky to have experienced many wonderful moments over the past year, but I think, without this blog, it would have been harder for me to see the diamonds amongst the raindrops. Sitting down to write has been a cathartic experience, enabling me to express my thoughts and feelings and make sense of my life, my dreams, where I am going. In making a concerted effort to create a concrete record of the positive, beautiful, significant moments of my everyday life and focusing my thoughts on what I have to celebrate and be thankful for, I have avoided the pits of melancholy I would have fallen into with just my own mind to mull things over in.

Writing this blog has helped me grow and develop and change and take joy in the abundant gift of life again, and it wouldn’t have done half so much for me if I hadn’t have had you lovely readers to walk alongside me during the process. I can’t tell you in words how thankful I am that you are all out there, reading this. It brings such joy to my heart to know that other people want to read what I write. Whether you’re a lurker, a commenter, a regular reader or a sporadic dropper-in, I appreciate all of you who take the time to come by. You have all, in your own ways, encouraged me more than you’ll ever know, and it has been my privilege to have you share your thoughts and experiences with me over the past year, and I have developed many new friendships as a result. Blogging has made my life richer in a myriad of ways, and so as I launch into a second year of blogging, I am looking forward to continuing to share both my reading and everyday lives with all of you, my wonderful readers. Thank you for coming along on this adventure; your company is so very precious to me.

68 comments

  1. Congratulations on your blogiversary! I hope that your second year of blogging is just as rewarding.

    Have a great holiday!!

    1. Thanks Jackie! I’m sure it will be – I will try to do some things differently and attempt to learn a bit more about the gadgetry that WordPress can offer.

  2. Our lives are richer and brighter for having you and your blog in it, Rachel. I am glad that after last year’s holiday your blog was born and hope that this year’s zen time in Greece will also be productively spent.

    Ah, how I wish for some sunshine and Greek food!

    Happy bloggiversary.

    1. Oh Claire, you are lovely! Thank you so much. Zen time amidst sunshine and delicious food will be marvellous – I can’t wait – especially as this is proving to be a hectic week already! I hope you manage to get away at some point this summer.

  3. Beautiful post, Rachel! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you this year and, as Claire said, our lives are richer for it. Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes as you begin your second year of blogging.

  4. This rain, the arrival of a new bikini and your descriptions of Greece have made me desperate for sunshine…. I went to Lefkas many years ago and loved it.
    As an occasional lurker – Wishing you a great and refreshing, sunny holiday.

    1. That’s good to hear – I can’t wait! I’m sorry I can’t take you all with me – everyone deserves a lovely sunny holiday at least once a year! Thanks so much for reading – I have been very much enjoying your blog of late too.

    1. Thank you Lex! Oooh I shall be eating plenty of fish and olive oil then! Luckily I have olive skin as it is so I am half way to having beautiful skin the Greek way!

  5. Happy blogiversary! I’m so envious of your Greece vacation! I’ve never been but your descriptions of the food have my mouth watering!

  6. Congrats on your blogiversary! It’s been wonderful reading your blog over the past year, and I look forward to many more great posts from you.

  7. Happy blog-birthday, Rachel, and what a moving post – I’m so glad blogging has helped you in any way. Like you, I determined when I started blogging that it would be a *happy* sort of place, where I wrote positive things rather than dwell on any upsets in my life. Most book bloggers seem to take the same approach, and its makes the blogosphere such an affirming place to be.
    x

    1. Thank you so much Simon, you are lovely – I’m glad we have the same outlook and desire from our blogs. It’s always such a pleasure to read your funny, clever and always interesting posts and you were one of my inspirations when I started blogging – I lurked for months around the blogosphere before daring to start myself! x

  8. Hi Rachel,

    I really enjoyed reading your latest blog. I’ve been dipping into a number of blogs but don’t usually comment! I’ve just returned from holiday and after a strange/tough/emotional year I decided to start a blog myself. Hopefully mine will be just as cathartic for me as yours has been for you. Congratulations on your blogiversary – long may it go on.

    1. Hello! Welcome – thanks so much for reading and thank you for your kind comment. Sounds like you are about to have the same journey as me – I wish you every success and much new joy as you leave a tough year behind.

  9. Now you’ve done it! You’ve turned me green. Green with envy. I will forgive you, however, for I truly love your writing and the spirit and love of books you bring with it and wish you the best on your future musings and reviews. You must, of course, tell us all about Lefkas. I know I will hang on every word upon your return.

    I am green because, as you may know, I am of Greek descent on my father’s side. My childhood was spent surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and my YiaYia (Greek for grandmother), for whom I was named.

    A year is a very long time to keep up a blog, Rachel, and it is a good discipline that you carry out splendidly. I enjoy your reviews and they have spurred me on to read books I might not have otherwise read and to revisit old friends as well. Xronia Polla! Many more!

    1. Thank you Penny! You are always far too generous to me in your praise! I love your blog too and I am glad that we can both give each other pleasure through our writings!

      How wonderful that you are of Greek descent! That must explain your wonderfully warm personality! I will be sure to post lots of photos when I come back, though I don’t want to incite too much jealousy!

  10. It has been an immense pleasure to drop in on your blog and watch it, and you, grow. I admire the way you share your thoughts openly and honestly…and even when you vent it’s done with grace. You were definitely made to write so thank you for starting a blog as a place to hone your craft, work things out and share wonderful books with us! And in the most complimentary of ways it feels like we’ve known you for ages!

    Loved your post on EM Delafield but sad that so many of these wonderful women are gone. How I would love to enjoy an interview on Woman’s Hour with Dorothy Whipple or Delafield herself!

    1. Thank you Darlene! You are so wonderfully kind. I adore your blog and I have loved getting to know you too – long may it continue!

      I know – what I wouldn’t give for a chance to meet these women – what I wouldn’t give for them to still be alive and writing their lovely novels, too!

  11. You have such a beautiful way of writing, I’ve loved finding and reading your blog, it’s inspiring to me in how I write, read and think about life. Your positive and simple outlook is a joy.

  12. I am so glad I found your blog. It’s a pleasure to read intelligent, well thought out and passionate reviews, you certainly can write.

  13. Quote: … I feel like I have come into the clear shining after the rain, when everything becomes fresher, richer, brighter, more verdant, more alive, somehow.

    Wow! Yet more evidence of your marvellous facility with words, and a further suggestion that you are one of those people who ponders things deeply. Such thoughtfulness is sometimes a blessing but often a curse. It is possible to care too much and as a result become burdened by doubts, fears and worries. Well done on twelve months of focusing on the positive and in the process creating a high quality piece of web publishing. It is good to know that writing here has helped you, reading many of your posts – this one included – has certainly been helpful to me.

    1. David, you are too kind – thank you for such a lovely comment. You are right – I do care too much – and it’s not easy at times to be that way when all around me I see such sadness and so many people I wish I could help. However focusing on the many joys in life has been wonderful and I’m so pleased that you have found what I write helpful. It’s such a pleasure to know that people like you are reading my humble blog!

  14. On the contrary Rachel it is us, the readers who should be thanking you. Can’t really say better than ditto to Simon T, Darlene, David Nolan. So glad you are up for another year…
    Have a beautiful holiday.

    1. Thank you so much Merenia – it has been a joy to have you as one of my readers and your comments and emails have truly lifted my heart – blogging is only as pleasurable to me as it is because I have such wonderful readers!

  15. Wonderful post Rachel and happy blogoversary, it has been lovely to meet you through the blogosphere, and far too shortly in the flesh which we need to sort out.

    I think we all have these breaks where we recharge and re-evaluate everything and they are much needed. I hope you enjoy it very much. Mind you Greece is marvellous so of course you will.

    1. Thank you Simon – it has been lovely getting to know you too and I hope we will meet again soon for much more book related chat!

      Yes – a good recharge is always welcome. I wonder what my big change will be when I return this time!!

  16. Congratulations Rachel! I’ve been reading you blog for several months now and never commented. You put so much of yourself into your writing. It’s an inspiration and joy to read. I have learned a lot from what you write about and about your life. I hope you have a wonderful time in Greece.

    1. Thank you Linda! I’m so pleased you have been reading my blog and it’s lovely to have you comment at last! What lovely things you have said – they make me so glad! I can’t wait to explore your blog now.🙂

  17. Here I am, a day late and a dollar short as usual! Happy blogiversary. We get pleasure and sustenance from your blog, too. Please keep writing and enjoy your holiday.

  18. Happy blogiversary! I’ve so enjoyed reading your posts and discovering books we both love. I’m looking forward to another year of the same. I hope you’re having a really splendid vacation!

    1. Thank you Kate – I love your blog too and it always excites me when you have written a new post. I’m off on Sunday so I hope my holiday will indeed be splendid, thank you!

  19. Happy blog birthday! Rachel, I love your blog and I think I discovered it a few months after you started. It was one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. Keep, keep writing. You obviously have a lot of talent.

    1. Thank you Astrid -what a compliment! You are so kind. I love your blog and get such pleasure and inspiration from it – it’s a joy to be able to correspond with you.

  20. Countless times I’ve read about writers who cannot write about a place until they have left it. I, too, find that holidays offer a fresh (and sometimes disturbing) perspective on the life from which we’re vacationing, and think it’s rather like what those writers have said, that we’re able to re-write our existences from a distance and then inhabit them (if brave enough) on our return. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

  21. It’s amazing how the simple act of writing (or typing) your thoughts can help to focus your life. I admire your honesty, your ability to truly see what you want, and what steps you need to take in order to make it a reality. You’re very right. Vacations have the power to clear our heads so perfectly that we can see what it is we need to feel more satisfied and happy without any distractions.

    It looks like that ol’ Costner film was right: you build it, they will come.🙂 When we pour ourselves into a project, like you have done with your blog, people can see the authenticity of your words and continue to return as loyal readers.

    My own blog has helped me mend my relationship with books, which nearly crumbled into pieces. After completing my MA in English Literature, I was so thoroughly exhausted that I simply could not look at another book without feeling resentful. Now that I have started my blog, I feel like my freedom as a reader is finally starting to inspire me with focus and ambition.

    Thanks for a great post!

    1. Hi Lydia! How lovely to see a new face. Thank you for your lovely comment – I’m so glad that your blog has done so much for you. I felt much the same after my BA in English Literature – very burned out, and not really knowing what to read after being told what to read for so long! But I recovered, and I’m glad you have too. I look forward to reading your blog!

  22. I can’t believe you’ve been blogging a whole year! Time has flown and I have enjoyed your posts so much. Full of very life affirming, positive, and bookish thoughts. I wish you a great holiday in Greece. I will be going for my first visit in September myself, you’ll have to recommend some of the great islands to visit.

    1. I can’t either! Thank you very much – it’s been a pleasure to write and have such lovely people read my words. How wonderful – you will adore Greece! Skiathos and Skopelos are both quintessential white washed islands and are beautiful, but the much greener and more traditional Lesbos, off the coast of Turkey, is also very lovely – the town of Molyvos is incredible – the town is built on a hill and atop the hill is an ancient castle, plus the harbour is the prettiest I’ve ever seen!

  23. Congratulations on your year and a post of much levity and perspective and interest. My blog was born over Christmas – so maybe there is a connection with holidays?

    Have a lovely holiday

    Hannah

    1. Thank you Hannah – I think there probably is! I have greatly enjoyed your blog over the past six months so it was definitely a good decision for you to start as well!

  24. I’m sorry you’ve had problems and hope things will be much better for you now. I’m glad you started your blog. You have enriched many lives through it, I’m sure.

    I’m almost finished The Rector’s Daughter, which had been gathering dust on my shelves. I’ve been enjoying it (if that’s the right word!) so much and aching for poor Mary. Her experience with Mr Herbert is very similar to that of someone very, very close to me (no, that’s not a euphemism for ‘me’) recently, but thankfully SHE has an adoring family and shoulders to cry on, unlike Mary, whose father has joined Mr Woodhouse in the ‘fathers I want to strangle’ category! I’m so glad you recommended this book and am enjoying your blog so much.

    I’ve added a category: ‘Fellow Bookworms’ to my blogroll and am planning to start talking about books I’m reading in future entries.

    Enjoy your holiday!

    1. Thank you so much Penny – I am definitely through the worst of it so onwards and upwards!

      I am so glad I prompted you to read The Rector’s Daughter – it really is criminally underread and I am delighted that you are ‘enjoying’ it (not quite the right word, is it?), though I’m sorry someone you know has recently had a Mary experience – not very pleasant. I hope she recovers quickly.

      That’s brilliant! I look forward to reading your book reviews!

  25. Have a lovely time in Greece (oh England why must you be so rainy?). I’m very glad to hear that life is picking up for you now. I never believed that the 20s period would be so complicated until I arrived here and I often wonder why we’re all expected to survive it so easily and how some people do, so it’s always good to meet a survivor who has come through and into the shining as you put it so lovely.

    1. Thank you! I know – I am desperate for some sun! Yes the 20s are really not easy, and no one tells you this until you’re in them, and having a hard time! It is an official thing though – a ‘quarter life crisis’ – there are plenty of useful books on the subject if you are having a struggle as well. You do get past it though – I think the most difficult, but essential thing, is learning to stop comparing yourself with other people, and worrying about whether you are lagging behind. Life isn’t a race! AND you don’t have to have it all figured out – being totally useless at everything with no idea what you’re doing with your life is absolutely FINE!

  26. I have heard of the quarter life crisis but when I spoke to people they were all very clear that it was not happening to them and there’s not much you can say after that because no one wants to be the only one having imaginary crises (is that the right plural of crisis?) Might write that bit about being fine being useless out and stick it up somewhere noticeable🙂

    1. Everyone SAYS it – but inside they’re falling apart! Once I admitted to my friends I was struggling, they all couldn’t believe it – they thought I was the sorted one! Then they started telling me they were unhappy too – and we’ve all been there to support each other as we try and figure this adulthood thing out. It’s not an imaginary crisis! And you are totally not alone, so never think that. Go on amazon and type in quarter life crisis – there are so many books that can help you. I read a great one by Margaret Feinberg that I lent to all my friends -it totally sorted me out. It is Christian based but I think it would still be useful if you don’t want the God stuff. Yes – write it down! I tell myself that every day – it really helps!!

  27. Your description of Greek food has me salivating! I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Congratulations on your first ‘blog birthday.’ I have discovered your blog quite recently and very much enjoy your brilliant posts. I look forward to another year reading your blog!

  28. Thanks so much for writing this very heartfelt post! I’m always inspired by how well-thought out and well-written your blog is, and how you manage to blend your personal and bookish lives so well on here.

    1. Thank you so much Lija! That really means an awful lot to me. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my blog – it’s a pleasure when so many of my readers are as lovely and appreciative as you.🙂

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