The Wonder of the Ordinary
By Mariamne Paulus
This past summer we made the choice to stay at home and enjoy the opportunity to swim in our pool. We had no way of knowing that the summer would last six months! This sustained time at home gave me an opportunity to bask in the wonder of the ordinary parts of each day. Instead of going numb to the sameness of each day, I grew more appreciative as time went on.
One morning I was in my Sanctuary of Silence, as it is my intention to be each day, and I suddenly welled up with immense joy and gratitude. The decoration of my Sanctuary has been essentially unchanged for the 23 years we have lived in this house. But that morning I was struck by how beautiful the room is. It seemed light streamed out from everything in the room in addition to streaming in through the windows. It was as if the whole room was present to me with its essence, touching my essence and thrilling me.
I thought, “This is the wonder of the ordinary!” The phrase was new to me as was the depth of the experience. Over the years we have traveled so extensively that I have grown accustomed to the stimulation provided by different cultures and environments. It is easy to be thrilled by the new, the unusual, the unexpected. But here I was being awakened to the beauty of the usual, the ordinary, of that to which I am accustomed.
I began to reflect on what these months at home had given me by way of nourishment. I find myself inspired daily by the beauty of the plants in our house and in the garden. I have always appreciated them, but now it seems I have time to drink in the joy that they bring me and to be deeply nourished by them.
I never fail, upon returning to our home after an hour or two away, to be struck, almost as though for the first time, with the beauty of it, with how much I love it. My heart center wells up with gratitude and I marvel at how blessed I am.
I have the same experience with our desert environment. Our skies are ever-changing with dramatic clouds, streaming light, and colors that go from translucent blue to aqua. The light falls on our mountains and illumines them dramatically as if highlighting the wonder of what nature has provided for us. And when we have storms, the drama is spectacular, with flashes of lightning that reach from high in the sky all the way to the ground, with loud clashes of thunder, and with sudden bursts of rain that fall as if from specific clouds assigned to specific areas of town.
Many times at sunset I imagine that a lighting designer has orchestrated the illumination of certain trees; palm trees, for example, are often lighted from underneath making their leaves shimmer with gold. I cannot help but exclaim, “Look how beautiful that is!” as we are privileged to witness the wonder of nature.
And then there is the parade of diverse humanity. Watching people go into or come out of stores or movie theaters, I cannot help but marvel at the individuality. No two people are alike. It’s not just the different hair styles or outfits people wear. It is the variety of walks, of carriage, of tempo-rhythm, of facial expressions. What a wonder, all of it and all of them!!
There is so much more. It seems that people become kinder, more eager to be of help whether on the phone or in person. Sometimes I find myself thinking it is because I am older that people seem more attentive or courteous, but then I realize that it seems to be their response to my presence to them. I find that wonderful!
I cannot attribute this new appreciation of the ordinary solely to my semi-retirement and the more leisurely pace of my days. When I respond with wonder at the joy of doing laundry or washing dishes, I realize that this has more to do with my being more awake and more acutely present to the world around me. It is a tremendously joyful way to live and I am more grateful for the wonder of the ordinary than I can adequately express. I wish the same experience for you.