In 1997 I was living alone in Barre, Vermont. And when I say living alone, it was alone. I’d taken a job with the Department of Education in Montpelier. It was a good job and landed me back in Vermont where I thought I would live forever. The problem was I didn’t know anyone in Barre, or Montpelier. My family was as close as three hours and as far away as six. My closest “friend” was more than an hour away and in Vermont there is no direct way to make that hour go by any more quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, the views are always beautiful. It was easy to drive winding my way down a two-lane road, with no guard rails, tree-lined on one side and following an often times dry riverbed on the other. A little James Taylor or Amy Grant for company on the radio. But alone, nonetheless. That is when I began to keep a gratitude journal.
I also found myself turning to just about every self-help book I could put my hands on; I was searching. I felt physically, mentally, and spiritually alone. I thought that with a little guidance from Oprah I might find what I was looking for; remember, it was the late 90’s and Oprah was the place to go to get answers.
On one particular day I was home early enough from work to catch an Oprah interview with author Sue Bender. She’d written a book called Every Day Sacred. She describes the book as a journey of self discovery both as an artist and author. A begging bowl that appeared on the front cover and was front and center throughout the book, became a symbol for her of what she was looking for to fill her own “bowl”. How was she meant to find meaning in her work as an artist and a human being–it seemed to be just what I needed.
As quickly as I could I went to the closest bookstore I could find, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. The book, a soft cover, small square book, the photo of a richly colored begging bowl on the front. I found a copy of it, of course in the self-help section, leafed through it quickly and decided it was worth the price.
I was fascinated as I read by the author’s descriptions of her travels, her relentless drive to both make the perfect bowl and to make meaning in her life. I’ve read that book about 10 times since I first bought it, finding something each time that strikes me enough to make a small change in my thinking and approach to my life. My recent read, before I began to blog, lead me to the preface of the book and the reason I started writing this particular blog.
I’ve given the book as a gift on several occasions as well, but have no idea if it has done for the receiver what it’s done for me, but I’ll continue to give it anyway.
So today I thank Sue Bender for a book that changed me.