Jul 31 2013

Behold the Unexceptional!

Columbus-Belmont-State-ParkMost of the books I own are sitting five and a half hours away.  That has been one of the most frustrating things about the move to my new location.   Our house in eastern Kentucky has not sold yet and we have nowhere here to keep them so if I want or need something there I’m pretty much out of luck.  This situation did cause me to be very selective in what books I did bring to Henderson.  Of highest priority were the volumes I’d need for my work; after that came the books that bring me the greatest pleasure.  It was for this reason I made sure my volumes of Mary Oliver poetry arrived early.  Her poetry moves me as no other poet. I wanted them close at hand.

pine needlesEarlier today I saw where the author Parker Palmer posted a Mary Oliver poem on his Facebook page.  It is a poem from her book Why I Wake Early and is called Mindful.   I’m glad Palmer posted this poem today; I needed it.  Consider Oliver’s words: “Every day I see or I hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.  It is what I was born for–to look, to listen, to lose myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.  Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant–but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations.  Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these–the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?”

RNP-277The thought conveyed at the end of this poem reminds me of the words I cited in my last blog from Oprah Winfrey.  Speaking about nature Oprah said, “sometimes its smallest offerings are the ones that open my soul to its splendor.”   Mary Oliver goes a bit further and encourages us not to miss that which is to be found in the unexceptional, in “the ordinary, the common, the very drab.”  I confess I tend to look for the exceptional, especially when I am photographing.  If something is ordinary, common or drab it typically does not get a second glance from me.  My blogging partner, Rob Sheppard, however, has made a conscious decision to pay more attention to these things and to photograph them as well.  He has written about this a number of times in his other blog, Nature and Photography.  He likes to remind people that these common or ordinary things are part of nature too.

BB173Yes, they are a part of nature too and that also means they are part of God’s Creation.  That alone should be cause enough to broaden my horizons and motivation not to dismiss that which is considered unexceptional by most people.   In the end, is anything God has created unexceptional?  I doubt it.  Throughout Genesis 1 we are told God repeatedly declared Creation to be good–all of it.  Both Winfrey and Oliver mention the joy and delight they receive from these small or common thing.   I suspect I have missed not only that joy and delight but a number of spiritual lessons as well simply due to my propensity to ignore that which is common.  That being so, I think I’ll take Oprah, Mary and Rob’s advice and try to start paying better attention to the unexceptional.  Would you consider doing the same?

–Chuck


Jul 28 2013

Oprah Winfrey on Seeing Creation

eCES5580When Oprah Winfrey speaks the world listens.  Well, maybe not everyone but she is definitely very popular and someone that carries a lot of influence.  Through her television shows and magazine she has touched millions of lives.  I’ve never read her magazine but my younger sister does and Betty sent me a couple of quotes earlier this week from the August 2013 issue of “O”.  In a section called “What I Know for Sure” Oprah writes: “Every night at sunset, friends and neighbors gather on my front porch to watch what we call the greatest show on Earth. We take pictures and compare the color variations of each magnificent light show as the sun dips below the horizon.”   She goes on to say, “For me, nature is one great big wow after another, and sometimes its smallest offerings are the ones that open my soul to its splendor.”

clouds 7156There are a number of things I like about this excerpt.  For starters, I think it’s wonderful that someone who has as much money and resources as Oprah that for her evening entertainment she still turns to the free gift of sunsets, the “greatest show on Earth.”  Here we are reminded that much of God’s Creation is there for everyone to enjoy, no matter how rich or poor they are, the color of their skin, or what country they may reside in.  Everybody can enjoy sunrises and sunsets, beautiful cloud formations, the birds of the air, trees, etc.   God’s “other Book,” like God’s grace, is there for all to enjoy and benefit from.

B7194I also appreciate the fact that Oprah still sees nature as “one great big wow after another.”  I do not know Oprah personally but it would seem from what she says here that she has been able to maintain a certain degree of childlikeness after all these years.  Unlike a lot of adults, she is still able to see the Creation through the eyes of a child.  This is a positive characteristic.  You may recall that Jesus once said, “Unless you become like children you cannot enter the kingdom of  heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)  A childlike spirit (not to be confused with childishness) is an invaluable trait.  If we fail to look at the world through childlike eyes we will miss much of its wonder and we may well miss God as well.

dragonfly 48Finally, I applaud Oprah for recognizing that sometimes it’s the “smallest offerings” in nature that open our soul to its splendor.  Sunsets, mountains, and the ocean tend to wow everyone but not so the little things.  We are prone to forget that the cliche “big things can come in small packages” is true.  If we approach God’s gifts in Creation with an open mind and the childlikeness noted above we may just find our souls also moved by the tiny flower you can barely see with the naked eye, the honey bee that is carrying pollen from the flower to the hive, the dragonfly perched upon a stem, the orb weaver spinning its web, or a million other things.  All of God’s gifts and revelations do not come in big packages.  It would certainly pay us to keep that in mind.

Having written all of this I find myself being thankful that people do listen when Oprah speaks.  I hope lots of people read her words in the latest issue of “O” and that it will help them see the Creation in a new way.  Better still, I hope that it will help them see the Creator in a new way.

–Chuck

(I took all of the images shown above near my home in Henderson, Kentucky.  I’d like to say a special thank you to my sister, Betty Summers Stewart, for sharing the words from Oprah with me and also for catching all my typos on this blog site.)