Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Mary Oliver, a well-loved poet, talks about paying attention and noticing what’s in front of you, of being fully aware, of staying in the present moment and writing poems about where you feel awe and wonder at the world. Her poem “The Swan” helped me see a swan with more wonder and curiosity and gratitude than ever before: “Did you see it, drifting, all night on the black river? Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air, an armful of white blossoms? And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds–a white cross streaming across the sky… “
A few years ago, I began to feel awe and wonder regularly, finding myself intrigued by more beautiful connections in nature than I had ever realized before. I remember once standing in a park in Fredericton in the winter for a long time, staring and staring at this one tree: I was mesmerized by the dark silhouetted tree at dusk covered in a thin layer of frosty snow and ice, and it’s incredible shape and shine, like an art sculpture hand-crafted as a gift to the world (and to me). While Mary Oliver’s swan was streaming across the sky, this white tree was streaming upwards, reaching like a swan’s long slender neck for the blue-black winter night, peaceful and silent in its own blanket of softly falling snow.
This week, in a whole different season, I walked and sat outside in my backyard, and felt that incredible wonder again. The magnificence of our world in springtime. Every bird, every flower, every seed and hosta I’ve planted, every dollop of sunshine touching the earth, the wind refreshing my face, my cat meowing to go outside, the sound of ‘shhh-ing’ traffic on wet roads from evening rain, the red shells of buds landing all over our yard, the clouds moving silently across blue, the shimmering leaves dancing on the oak, the pink blossoms and sky–all of this is extraordinary.
Birds with ruffled feathers as if they’ve just had a bath, cat with her yellow eyes bright and wide watching birds, the seeds breaking open beneath the soil as they prepare to grow new shoots. Our world is alive. All of this is a miracle.
When I stop to notice it, and realize I am witnessing a miracle, and that all that seems ordinary is actually extraordinary, then I stop feeling so tired and I feel more contented and aware of the joy and magic of the moment. There is good being offered to us all the time. I am learning to look for it with new eyes, new ears, new touch.
The earth loves us. The trees with their tiny birthing buds, the flowers offering us their pastels, the gardens offering us peas, peppers, tomatoes and basil, the birds offering their trills, and whirrrs, and chickadee-dee-dees. A symphony in a small umbrella tree in our backyard. And oh the ruckus and chatter they make when a raven comes to our feeder.
Gifts are everywhere.
Present moment, gratitude, and being in awe of everything extraordinary. That’s where I’m going to keep focusing in this season. It’s not so much that everything I’m seeing is new. It’s more that every day I’m seeing new for the first time. And it’s learning that when my life and what weighs me down feels too real, that the reality of nature’s care for us is there for the healing–an escape from daily life, but also a gentler return to daily life.
This season I commit to letting nature care for me. Will you join me?