Aaaaah! Seven Soothing Things

Lake Ontario at Sunnyside, Toronto, Canada.
Lake Ontario...Image via Wikipedia

Half an hour before I walked down the aisle to re-marry, after 19 years as a divorcee, I was sitting in a church pew, barefoot, my legs stretched out before me, savoring the moment.

“You’re calm, cool and collected,” the minister, said, surprised. No hyper-ventilating, no last-minute panic, no wardrobe malfunction. A bride just…happy and calm.

I realized that day why I was so calm, because I had included, without consciously thinking about them all, seven things that always soothe my soul. Enjoyed in combination, bliss!


I’m always happiest when I can easily escape into nature, and the church we chose for our wedding is set in a public park on an island. The little white building, from 1888, stands beneath ancient weeping willows, shaded by maples and oaks, a carpet of green grass all around. Ten minutes before the ceremony, the minister walked outside and began gathering huge armfuls of goldenrod, which he put into two tall metal buckets at the church door. I loved his spontaneity and this powerful reminder we were as much as part of that world as that of the church itself.

To get from the vestry to the church door, I walked, barefoot, through the grass, before slipping into my Manolos, connecting me to the earth.

During the silent moments of the service — which we deliberately built in — we could hear one sound from outside. Crickets.


I’ve been a water-baby forever: sailing, water-skiing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking. I grew up in Toronto, on Lake Ontario, attended summer camp ages 8-17, always on the water, often living in a cabin where the lapping of waves on the shore was the lullaby soothing me to sleep each night. I now live with a clear, year-round view of the Hudson river and take a commuter train into Manhattan along tracks that hug its shoreline. I love being near water.


The photos of my father and I, standing outside the church awaiting the music of my processional, show us laughing so hard we could barely stand up…because the sound we were hearing was that of cows mooing from a nearby field. I’d forgotten that Centre Island also has a petting zoo with cows, sheep and other animals.

I’m much happier and calmer I become when I’m around dogs and horses, especially. (Cats, not so much.) One of my happiest moments anywhere ever was riding on an elephant’s neck (!) in Thailand.


I thrive on physical beauty — in nature, design, color, architecture — and feel its absence keenly. I flee surroundings that are ugly, thoughtless, dirty or poorly maintained. I seek beauty everywhere I go, and am grateful and delighted every time I find it. Our church that day was spectacularly lovely, its stained glass windows glowing with late afternoon sunlight like jewels.


I don’t have many acquaintances and make little time for people unless they become, and want to be part of, my inner circle. Emotional intimacy matters deeply to me, and when I find it, I try to nurture it as the treasure it is. We had only 24 guests at our wedding, every one of them carefully chosen as the dearly beloved to us that they are.


Old places, buildings and landscapes with a long, deep, rich past, move me most deeply: the Grand Canyon, the Arctiche rough, wild,  landscape of Corsica. Shiny, new, sleek modern spaces leave me cold. I want the patina of others’ hands and lives, to know I, too, am a part of their tapestry, a continuum reaching back centuries, even millennia. Our church that day had the smell of sun-heated wood, a scent which shot me back to my 12-year-old self in the hall where we rehearsed our musicals at camp. Heaven!


My wedding processional was, a capella, the lovely round Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace) and our processional the joyous and playful “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder. Music is a daily pleasure, whether jazz, rock, classical, or big band.

What are some of the things that soothe, calm and satisfy your soul?

11 thoughts on “Aaaaah! Seven Soothing Things

  1. I could really feel the moments and sensations you described. I’m also uncomfortable in ultra-modern surroundings with glimmers only of pristine, empty newness. History is important. It connects us with anonymous souls and helps us feel connected. I returned from my first trip to America yesterday. I was in Philadelphia, Washington and New York. I thought of you because my hotel in New York was on “Broadway”. (far, far north, but nevertheless a nice address!) My first experience of Time Square was an overload of sensation; it was exciting, exhilirating but I felt that I had been zapped into a video game – that I was a victim of commercialism, not a product of history. I loved the beautiful respite of Central Park; the way the city towered in the distance, the shades of orange and red through which the squirrels hopped. Your “seven things” made me think about my own sources of comfort: and I think I’d have to add: a place where I can feel completely at home. Furniture that’s mine, a view out a window that’s barely changed in years and the sense that family and friends are near.

  2. Thanks…Sounds like you had a terrific trip! Broadway actually extends for many, many miles…even here in my town (25 miles north.) I agree about Times Square, not my thing at all, but worth experiencing.

    I love your additions…I look out my window (22 years in the same apartment!) and my view has not changed at all, thank heaven…trees and the Hudson River. I knew that when I bought it, which made it much more valuable to me. We have collected some lovely things over the years, so I get this as well…I have a seaman’s chest, a small wooden box with his name stenciled on it in orange paint — Lewis Proctor. I’ve owned it for decades and wonder every time who he was…

    Hope you’ll make time a coffee with me next time you’re in the neighborhood!

    1. I love those curiosities too! Maybe you could invent the seaman’s story sometime! In Philadelphia I went to a thrift store and bought a dozen or so black and white photos – of families at dinner, a grandmother reading to her child, friends in floppy hats on the beach. I was inspired by their age and by why someone would give them away. Maybe sometime I’ll be able to put them into a story but even if I don’t they are lovely to handle and wonder about. Coffee would have been wonderful – it didn’t even occur to me to ask – I assumed you would be much too bust to meet a random Irish girl! Following on from my earlier comment, I thought about what my first thoughts about America were and wrote a post on my first impression of America and Time Square – It’s here if you feel like reading it!

      1. Too funny…I was recently in Ontario and found a pile of early albums — 1920s — of photos and want to buy them but the store still can’t seem to come up with a price. I keep calling them. Not sure what I would do with them but they are such time traveling devices!

        I’ll go check our your blog.

        It would be fun to invent a story for Lewis…I had thought of trying to find out more through the museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts devoted to whaling.

  3. I like your list. Me I love being outdoors, in the woods, up a mountain, on a track in the middle of no-where. I love travelling, Jane and I settle in the car, and head off, watch the scenery change and enjoy coffee stops, all so good for the soul.

    And most important is having someone to share it all with. Who else would listen to me talking about where I ‘e been or where we should be going?


  4. This is really a beautiful post and like another reader said, I could feel each one of the descriptions you were telling us about. I especially loved the sun heated wood smell and could relate to your feeling of connection with nature. I bet he was surprised to come across a calm bride, but I also bet he appreciated that he didn’t have to tell you to breathe into a brown paper bag. 😉

    1. Thanks!

      Jose also shoots weddings so we think about them a fair bit. I think many brides are freaking out on their day for a lot of reasons that simply didn’t apply to us (thank heaven), like warring family, spending $$$$$$ and wanting everything to be “perfect” and basic terror of getting married. Jose and I have been together 11 years so it was more a formality (albeit a major one) than a Huge Life Event, which I think tends to induce hyperventilation.

  5. How great to be a calm bride and savor the moment. I grew up in Toronto too and Lake Ontario is a source of calm for me. I’m also soothed by the mossy, wet forests of my new home in Washington State.

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