The Year of the Ordinary

(First of all, I want to thank all of my readers and supporters this year. I appreciate you all. Those of you who have just found me from Freshly Pressed, thanks for reading and you made my day!)

I’ve spent the last day of the year being domestic. Grocery shopping. Doing laundry. Baking. Loading the dishwasher. Wiping counters. Picking up toys. Mediating sibling arguments. A most quotidian day. And while we usually attend a party or get together with friends on New Year’s Eve, we have no plans tonight. It will just be a quiet night at home.

I suppose the last day of the year should be more exciting, more celebratory. I should be making my cream-cheese-chocolate-chip cheeseball for a party. Maybe I should be buying a bottle of wine or champagne. Or organizing my closet for the new year. I definitely should be making my list of resolutions.

But does one night truly make a difference when we get to the nitty-gritty of life? Tomorrow, I will have to repeat the things I did today: Dishes, cooking. picking up. I will have the same resolutions as everyone else: Lose weight, exercise more, recycle.

St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “Let us remember that the life in which we ought to be interested is daily life. We can, each of us, only call the present time our own.”

Can the extraordinary be found in the commonplace, the repetitive, the mundane? Surely it can. Perhaps this is the closest I can come to a true resolution: I wish to find kairos moments in the midst of my chronos life. To find meaning and – gulp – joy in the domestic, dull moments of each day. To view those dreaded tasks as acts of love and nurture, acts of prayer, even. To be “at play” rather than “at work” (just as my 3-year-old loves to play with water in the sink and ‘wash’ dishes).

Yes, 2011 will bring changes. The kids will grow older. I’ll complete another year of teaching. Another wedding anniversary will pass. I hope to get a little skinnier. I hope to finish writing a book. But as the daily quotidian work stays the same, perhaps I will change a little for doing it.

Here’s a poem written by Li-Young Lee, who was able to find the extraordinary the simple act of combing hair:

Early in the Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher’s ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother’s hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

Happy New Year. Here’s to the Year of the Extraordinary.


  1. wherewander says:

    Happy New year!!!
    A friend of mine once told me that she liked my pictures because I made extraordinary out of the ordinary, that she saw things differently through my eye.
    Just like in the poem you posted today … little things that are really huge.

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