Nothing is Ordinary

There’s nothing ordinary about life. If you think of the vast number of sperm and eggs who never ever ever ever ever approach the dim possibility of life, that right there indicates that “Wow! Here we are!! HFS!!!” as Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” asks, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s all extraordinary, and I feel it all the time — most of the time, OK, if you want to split hairs.

My friend Lois is here and our conversation (poor Lois, she’s in a house with a woman who has hardly spoken to anyone in 2 years… Well, somewhat of an exaggeration, but…) touched on that very thing. She has had some incredible luck in the horse riding dimension of her life — and that’s her passion. She has the opportunity to ride horses as a favor to an older couple who love horses, have several, and have a beautiful small horse ranch. Her horse story is beautiful and moving. Most of the time she rides in the same landscape which is a beautiful landscape between Colorado Springs and Denver. “It’s always the same road,” she said.

“It’s never the same road,” I said. My mantra, I guess.

“No, and I take the same photos over and over. I see that in my Facebook memories. But then, the Refuge,” referring to me.

“Yeah.” I laughed we’d just gotten back from there, as it happens. “It’s never the same, and I take the same photo over and over, too.”

Lois noticed something yesterday I hadn’t noticed before. Little mammals swimming in a pond — river otters? What? I messaged the refuges to ask, but a little research last night narrowed them down to mink or river otters. River otters are more rare, so, for the moment, my money is on mink.

Yesterday Lois took the “same” photo at the Refuge. ❤ This is the pond where we saw the little mammals.

That’s what I learned in California when I had a great place to hike — nearby — and not much time. Every day I took one or the other of a handful of trails depending on the time I had to hike. The first year and a half I hiked there I really DID hike only ONE trail. That’s when I learned how fabulously extraordinary the “ordinary” — or familiar (isn’t that what we consider ordinary?) — might be. It’s only when our eyes are not distracted by mere novelty that we start to see something.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver

23 thoughts on “Nothing is Ordinary

  1. When we are young, I don’t think that we knew there was extraordinary in the ordinary. I think one of the advantages of getting older is that we start to pay attention to the ordinary, and pretty soon we start to realize just how extraordinary it really is.

  2. What a wonderful poem! It reminds me of Blake.

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour

  3. Agreeing with halfastcyclingclub’s comment about children and their wonder about the world as a wake up to we jaded adults, I would add: that same sense of wonder at the ordinary is why I love going into the natural world with my dogs. Yesterday’s trail is new today because OMG there’s a new critter trail to sniff and follow! Oh, and look at those wild turkeys on the hillside! My dogs have taught me to slow down and look closely at what’s “common” and “usual” in our backyard, showing me what I would otherwise miss, helping me see the new and remarkable every day. What a joy.

    Clearly you and Lois, and Bear and Teddy, already know all this 🙂

    And now you’ll be seeking and learning about minks and river otters! Always something more to learn when we pay attention.

  4. Ordinary — the mountains — they’re always there, although they do change with the seasons.
    Extraordinary — the pond — I wasn’t aware, from all your photos, that there is a pond in the refuge. And even more extraordinary, that mink and river otters would live in the same environment, or even that you have one or the other there. There is always something new to discover, if only we are open to find it!

    • The refuge is a wetlands. There are lots of ponds and marshes and then grasslands and fields. The whole thing — during the Ice Age — was an inland sea. The water formed aquifers underground and it’s sometimes referred to as a “hidden lake.” Farming has depleted the aquifers quite a bit but there’s a big effort to try to refill them. I never “knew” this world before and it’s fascinating and really beautiful — and new to me! Sometimes there are some of your pals, the blue heron! 🙂

      • Of course — the cranes would most logically summer in a wetlands area! I didn’t realize, though, that it was an inland sea, with aquifers and ponds and marshes! From your photos, I can see that it IS beautiful — I hope that sometime I will be able to see it.

  5. In a world that seems to always want to be entertained and with no luster for can be extraordinary, I’ll continue to find more than ordinary in nature around me. I love how I’ve traveled the same roads in life (and when obstacles in my vision were removed) can see new beauty every time! That’s exactly why I love being around kids. Yesterday my day club hosted a Christmas party for our special adult friends. Although it wasn’t in nature, an old high school gym (in which I used to roam about in another manner) became almost sacred as I watched the faces of these adults light up in interaction with one another and love and hugs from us hosting. It was an unexpected extraordinary “inside” event that lit me up as if I WAS experiencing the beauty of the outdoors. I’ll treasure it always. I’m so happy Lois visited and the Refuge revealed even more. 💚🐶🤗 🐾

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