In the liturgical year, we are now in “ordinary time.” This period of the church year will last until Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year) when the season of Lent begins. The fact that we are in ordinary time got me to thinking about the role of the ordinary in my life.
I’ve written about the importance of the ordinary before. Here is a passage from the new revision of my book Everyday Epiphanies:
One of the greatest gifts God has given me is my love for the ordinary. Vanilla ice cream, daisies, and even a glass of water often bring me just as must joy and pleasure as baked Alaska, long-stemmed roses, and fine French wine.
I feel sorry for people who overlook the ordinary, who don’t appreciate the everyday, who need the exotic to experience pleasure. In the novel Middlemarch, George Eliot writes, “If we had a keen vision and a feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
Happy are they who have a keen feel for everyday human life, whose ears are attuned to the roar of the ordinary. Happy are they who get a kick out of the commonplace, for they shall encounter joy and pleasure wherever they go! (p. 26)
Is appreciation for the ordinary innate or is it learned? I think it is mostly learned—or at least encouraged. I remember my mother taking me out to the incubators to see the newly hatched goslings, still wet from being inside their shells. And I recall my dad taking me for walks in his garden in the evening and pointing out to me the ordinary miracle of growing things like beans, tomatoes, and corn.
The truth is, the ordinary is the real miracle in our world. The writer Wendell Berry has written about this. He said the greatest miracle is that anything exists and keeps on existing. He goes on to say that Jesus’ turning of water into wine was “a very small miracle.” Then he adds, “We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (and soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”
On this ordinary day, in ordinary time, it might be nice to pause and name some of the ordinary things in your life that nourish you, that console you, that fascinate you, that give you pleasure. Here are a few of mine: the slant of light on a winter afternoon, the smell of freshly brewed coffee as I come down the steps in the morning, a child telling his first “knock-knock” joke and then giggling over it, a dog with his head sticking out of the back window of a moving car with his long ears flapping in the wind, the soft patter of rain on the roof when I crawl into bed at night, the sudden appearance of a friend’s face in a room full of strangers, the feel of clean sheets on the bed, riding in the car and hearing the familiar strains of Andy Williams’ “Moon River” on the oldies station, gazing at the array of cardinals, chickadees, and finches at the bird feeder.
What are some of the ordinary things you treasure in your life?
Let us pray:
Ingenious Creator, thank you! Thank you for everything, for every thing! Thank you that anything exists at all and continues to exist. Thank you for the many miracles of ordinary life, miracles I sometimes take for granted—those everyday miracles that refresh me, delight me, console me, fascinate me, and give me pleasure. May I grow in the appreciation of these ordinary blessings in my own life and may I nourish that appreciation in others. Amen.