To See The Eternal In The Ordinary

For the month of November I'm doing a writing project posting daily scenes written about a picture. These pieces are fiction and not actual events from my life, though I hope they carry an element of truth within them. They are unedited first drafts, shared with the hope of accountability and feedback. Thanks for joining me in this effort to sharpen and improve my writing.

(If you want to know more about this project and read the first piece click here.)

Here is my piece for November 2nd: 


It was still early morning when I woke, the house was still and dark. I knew the children would start to stir soon, but not yet. This time was mine. I stretched and rolled out of bed onto my knees. It was a ritual that had started many years before. I wasn’t ready to get up yet, but I knew if I stayed in bed I would fall back to sleep at this early hour. Rather than stand, rather than fall back to sleep, I knelt. I hung my arms over the bed stretching out my back and shoulders. Sometimes I prayed simple, direct, early morning prayers. Sometimes I just knelt there in the quiet.

Today I was quiet. I knew my mind would soon feel as if a thousand horses were racing through it and in this moment I wasn’t ready to wake them from their sleep. I took slow deep breaths. The movement of the air through my throat sounded like the waves of the ocean and for a moment I thought I could hear the sea calling me. But, the sea was a long way off and the work of the day was close.

I stood slowly and stretched my arms overhead, letting out a yawn. That was how the day began. That was how every day began, with gentle consistency.

Soon I was pulling rain boots over my feet and stepping out into the chill morning air. The sky was beginning to turn a softer shade of blue, heralding the impending break of the sun. I picked a basket up off the porch and headed out into the morning.

I walked to the far corner of the yard and opened a gate that guarded a small patch of dirt. That’s all it was right now, just a patch of dirt. I was looking for life. It had been weeks since I buried the seeds in the earth, but still only dirt. And weeds. Like little stowaways they buried their roots where they shouldn’t, planting themselves in the dirt that I had claimed for beauty. I knew they weren’t really to blame, but this morning I had little patience for them. I got down on my knees and began pulling the little mallow plants that threatened to take over my garden. Once I had a handful I threw the weeds into the basket at my side.

That’s when I saw it. Kneeling close to the earth my eyes caught on the speck of green. That wasn’t mallow. That wasn’t a weed. The leaves were shaped differently. They were small, and I felt uncertain if they were indeed the flowers I had planted or if the mallow was just tricking me with false hope. I leaned closer and traced my finger in the dirt around them, not wanting to disturb them, but wanting to get a better look. It wasn’t a weed. I crawled down the row on the knees and soon found another tiny shoot. It wasn’t barren ground afterall.

A smile spread across my face as I knelt in the dirt. The sky seemed to smile along with me as the first rays of the sun broke over the mountain and spread golden light across our little valley. I stood, picking up my basket of weeds. There were still weeds that needed pulling, but they were starting to loose their dominance. Each day they gave up more of their territory. I had done enough for today.

I walked out of the garden, closed the gate, and made my way to the chicken coop. The chickens greeted me with happy clucks and squawks when I entered. They gathered around me like a group of old women huddling to hear the latest gossip. I dumped the basket of weeds over and watched as they fought for the treat. They guarded their mallow as if guarding treasure. Clinging to it, grasping at it, running off with it to eat it in secret. They each had their own character and their own way of approaching and protecting their prize. I watched for a moment, smiling at their antics.

Before leaving the chickens I gathered what eggs I could find from their nests and placed them carefully into the now empty basket I carried. Then I slowly made my way back to the house. My steps were deliberate, clear, but slow. This was the moment in my day when I set my resolve for all that lay ahead, for the cleaning and the cooking and the battles of parenting. I never strayed off course. I always looked straight ahead. Until today.

I drew deep slow breathes, again feeling the air as it moved through my throat. Was that the waves calling again? I stopped. I turned my head, as if listening to someone calling my name far off. But, all I heard now was the call of the birds, singing back and forth to one another. What I saw though, was the fig tree. I rarely noticed it in the morning, but today I stopped and stared at it. The light had just reached it and it looked as if it had been turned to gold. The leaves swayed side to side in the breeze, softly casting dancing shadows on the ground behind them. Even the movement of that moment felt still and eternal.

There was fruit hanging from the branches. Rich, tender, green figs. I hadn’t planned on harvesting them now, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wanted to capture the beauty of that single minute and carry it with me. I walked to the tree and gathered as many of the ripe figs as my little basket would carry. Then I turned and walked towards the house with new energy in my steps.

The kitchen was still quiet, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long. I set the basket of figs on the counter and washed my hands. As I rubbed my palms under the water another urge stirred in my heart. I turned off the faucet, dried my hands on a linen dish towel and walked back into the bedroom. Opening a small drawer I pulled out a handful of thin golden rings. They had been a gift and I kept them hidden away for weddings and special events. Intentionally I slipped one of them onto my finger, then another, then another. I walked back into the kitchen, pulled a clean white apron from the cupboard, and tied it around my waist.

One by one I set the figs into a small white bowl, each movement an act of gratitude. I picked the small bowl up in my simply adorned hands and carried it from the counter to the table. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen table it felt like an offering. A gift of gratitude. A reminder that the sacred is in the midst of every day, if I have eyes to see it. A prayer to see the eternal in the ordinary.

(The picture that inspired this piece)