Phosphorescence, Julia Baird, Australia, 2020

Phosphorescence, Julia Baird, Australia, 2020

This is a beautiful book that should make any reader stop for a moment and think about what life really is: a collection of wonder. At the beginning of the book, Julia asks the question: ‘… how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom when the world goes dark, when we are, for instance, overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak.’ a question which she then proceeds to answer, focusing on the part played by awe, wonder and silence.

Living within a stone’s throw of the ocean, she understands that she is particularly fortunate when it comes to experiencing wonder and beauty, but as she points out, wonder and awe can be experienced in small things: a butterfly landing on a flower; the sound of rain; the smile on the face of a friend.

Part of Julia’s awe and wonder is her awareness of God, which she sees as being separate from patriarchal and often narrow-minded churches, Christian and/or otherwise. Related both to her religious perspective and to her perspective in general, she feels that we need to doubt in order to rethink. At all times, we need to live deliberately.

Julia Baird. Photo from ABC News

Stricken with cancer in 2015, Julia has survived a number of operations, and although she has been told that the cancer has now been eradicated she has learnt not to take life for granted. A single mother with two young children, she was faced with the very real prospect of not seeing them grow up. Her book Phosphorescence is, in many ways, an ode to the beauty and the wonder that surrounds us and which can invigorate us and lift us up when everything around us seems to be collapsing.

She writes about the need to connect with forests and oceans and the need ‘to teach ourselves how to wonder again, (and) how to be ready for that sensation.’ She talks about an awareness and a connection with things around us that surpasses words. Living in the moment is the red thread that runs through the entire book: ‘ if we accept impermanence, we are far more likely to live in the present, to relish the beauty in front of us, and the almost infinite possibilities contained in every hour, or a single breath.’

Ocean Phosphorescence from

At the end of this very special book, Julia writes that when things are bad and when the lights go out ‘… we must look outwards and upwards at all times, caring for others, seeking wonder and stalking awe, every day, to find the magic that will sustain us and fuel the light within – our own phosphorescence.’

Definitely a book I would recommend.

Interview with Julia Baird on Conversations ABC

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