Monday, July 10, 2017

#SOL17: Praise the Ordinary

 
Rainy Day (M.A. Reilly, 2010) 
Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.   - David Whyte, Consolations 

I.

It's a very rainy night in Zurich and I am eating dinner at La Zoupa, a small restaurant tucked up a side street a few blocks from the main boulevarde the rims Lake Zurich. The wide open door announces the steady fall of rain and the distant rumble of thunder. Outside a man stops, ducks under the awning to reclaim the umbrella that was blow inside-out by the wind. He quickly moves back into the rain and down the cobblestone street out of view. We are far enough away from the hotels that tourist do not make their way here--at least not during an evening downpour. I borrowed a very sturdy umbrella from the hotel clerk and wandered the mostly empty streets. It couldn't have been more perfect if I ordered the night up from God.

I enjoy cities, especially during a good downpour. Oddly, it makes sense to me--the rhythm, the pace, the anonymity. I am 4,000 miles from home, and yet Europe most always feels like home. Perhaps it's the vulnerabilities that speak most to me--the one's that arise when visiting a new place. Here the streets are less familiar, the languages spoken, less easy to the ear--and yet, beneath those difference is a familiarity that lightens the heart. Human differences are more a matter of surfaces than depths. Earlier I was reading David Whyte's Consolations and was taken by his definition of courage. He explains that courage is not doing the extraordinary, but rather living fully with the consequences of the vulnerabilities the accompany the ordinary.

II.

I was meant to travel and note with camera, pen, and brush what I see and sense, know and unlearn, remember and forget.  I cannot recall a time when I haven't been writing, or making images with a camera, or more recently with paint. Rob and I had planned to travel extensively when we partially-retired. Even when he faced permanent paralysis he asked me to find a van he could drive using his hands, rather than feet.

Find something I can drive with my hands, Rob told me, just one day after he had neuro-surgery to relieve metastatic spinal cord compression.
Drive with your hands? I asked.
Yes. A van perhaps.  

We did not know he was seven weeks from death.  Just hours after surgery, he could feel the pressure of my fingernail as I stroked the bottom of his right foot and we were so encouraged. During the next week as he tried to teach his body to walk again, the cancer that had been located in the apex of his right lung began to spread to his left lung, ribs, spleen, and liver.

When we talked about our future, we spoke about traveling. We imagined month-long holidays in the United States where we visited cities and towns. We wanted to document, consider, and most of all, praise the ordinary. As we thought about more permanent retirement we tried to figure out how to make Tuscany or the west of Ireland work.

III.

Tonight I am in Zurich, far from home. As I left the restaurant I realized I did not need the umbrella and so I closed it, letting the soft mist that was falling cool my skin. As I walked, I noticed how the streets, once so deserted, were now filling with people who had ducked inside restaurants or bars to wait out the storm. It was as if the whole city exhaled.

It's a lovely evening and as the rain stopped, the light returned and though it was after 9 p.m. it was not dark. Sometimes life feels this simple, this right.

13 comments:

  1. What a visually rich, searing post. It breathes. I have often thought that the extraordinary is really tucked deep inside the ordinary.

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  2. I felt immersed in the evening and in your remembering. A beautiful post; love the image of the city exhaling, and your final sentence.

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    1. It did feel like the city exhaled, spilling people out into the boulevardes an streets.Thanks Chris.

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  3. This post held me in perfectly from the quote till the final line. You were meant to observe the ordinary to show us the extraordinary with your writing and camera.

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    1. I am beginning to use my camera more again. It has been nearly two years since I used it consistently. Appreciate you kind words, Julieanne.

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  4. I love Whyte's definition of courage, and the way you brought it into your own life and this piece of writing, Mary Ann.

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    1. Tara, from what I know of you, I think you would find the whole book by David Whyte fabulous. IT is a touchstone for me.

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  5. Oh, Mary Ann, this is beautiful. The bookends of the ordinary evening rainfall in Zurich surrounding the life-changing extra-ordinary memories of your husband and your talk about traveling is so powerful. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Denise

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    1. It is my heart. Thank you for naming it.

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  6. Gorgeous writing as always. I love this: "what I see and sense, know and unlearn, remember and forget"

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    1. Good to know that line works. I wondered. Thanks Carrie.

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  7. Loved this line, "Human differences are more a matter of surfaces than depths."

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