Personal Musings

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

Ordinary things excite me: birds, bugs, wildlife, even trees. I find the ordinary extraordinary. It makes life less dull this way. Less a reason to escape and more the reason to connect with my immediate surroundings.

Hidden within the fabric of the ordinary lies the extraordinary waiting to be discovered. Noticed really:

  • The delicate dance of sunlight filtering through leaves
  • The collective determination of ants on parade through the soil
  • The kitten-like displays of young squirrels

Ordinary, everyday wonders

The extraordinary hummingbird

Each evening around the same time a hummingbird zips through our backyard, dips its long, curved bill into various flowers, and journeys on to the next yard. Because of the speed at which they flap their wings (50 to 80 times per second), the hummingbird is able to hover in mid-air and even fly backward — the only creature with this capability.

When something fascinates me, I want to learn more about it — not for the sake of knowledge. Curiosity is what calls me.

Is there a more amazing creature than a hummingbird? How about bats? Think about what a bat is. They aren’t birds. They are a flying mammal. Miniature puppy dogs that weigh two or three mere ounces with leathery wings.

Picasso once said that it took him four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. It could be theorized that losing our childlike vision is a natural part of growing up. But is this correct or is it cultural rhetoric engrained in us by the ruling class? And is this perspective, one of freshness and curiosity, not worth holding onto?

Consider what steals your attention the most each day. Is it man-made or made by the hands of God and a naturally occurring part of your environment? Is it stress relieving or stress inducing?

The less than ordinary little brown bat

“And she was always cold toward bats, too, and could not bear them; and yet I think a bat is as friendly a bird as there is.”

Mark Twain

When we moved into our home, a little brown bat occupied our attic. He still does — at least I like to think it’s the same little guy. While the little brown bat has an average lifespan of six and a half years, they can live up to 34 years in the wild.

He sleeps on the outer screen vent and not inside. Granted, as I sit here and write this on my back patio, he’s doing his intoxicated like maneuvering in the canopy of trees above me, gobbling up insects faster than I can type words on the screen. Three crows nearby study his movements.

In 2008, the little brown bat had the lowest conservation priority: least concern. Since that time, winter hibernating populations have declined by an average of 90% due to a fungus-caused disease known as white-nose syndrome.

Despite this sudden decline, this particular bat species is not yet protected under federal law (though it is under review). The Commonwealth of Virginia took its own measures placing the little brown bat on our endangered species list. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont followed suit.

One little brown bat can eat 600-1,200 mosquitoes an hour, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Happy hunting, I say. My backyard is a mosquito haven. All you can eat. Buffet’s on me, fellas.

Don’t overlook the simple wonders surrounding you

It’s good to get away every now and again, to take vacation. We just returned from one and had a great time. But I don’t need to wait 365 days or travel hundreds of miles to be amazed. Amazement is fluttering about in my backyard every day of the year — yours, too.

The Transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. It is not the length of life, but the depth.”

In the midst of the endless distractedness that is our modern way of life, it’s easy to overlook the simple wonders that surround us daily:

  • The male cardinal feeding his female companion as part of courting
  • The often mistaken news bee come to bring the day’s news

But if we take a moment to pause and observe the seemingly mundane, therein lies appreciation: the extraordinary ordinary everyday. Life, after all, is a tapestry of moments and observations, big and small, sewn together, if we only care to pay attention to the tiniest of details that so often pass us by.

“My only duty,” writes American author John Updike, “is to describe reality as it has come to me, to give the mundane its beautiful due.”

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Photo by Alan Braeley on Unsplash


8 replies on “Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary”

I so enjoyed your essay. I love hummingbirds, squirrels and deer. They are all so interesting to watch and learn from. Gwen I know you are so proud of your son! I am proud of you too Jeffrey…a “Phenix” boy making it big. Look forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing.

Very happy to hear you enjoyed reading it. You know, I almost threw a deer reference in this essay actually. We have a mama deer and her spotted fawns swing by our house daily. My wife even said, “You should include the deer.” Since I didn’t, I’m planning to incorporate them into a future piece.

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