“The Miracle of Ordinary Days”
May 19, 2010
I am a sucker for sentimental movies, Hallmark among my favorites. Today, after a long day’s toil, I positioned myself on the couch, drink in one hand, four dogs cuddling up to me, a purring cat on my lap, fully intending to “veg out” for the evening. After watching all of the prime time shows I was interested in, I turned to those I had saved for future viewing. “Miracle of Ordinary Days” caught my fancy. It is the story of a young woman, who was a graduate student in archeology and dreaming of going to Troy to see the excavations, when a wartime romance ended up with her becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Her father, a minister, shipped her off to a beet farm in the Midwest to enter into a sham marriage with a young farmer who agreed to raise this yet-to-be born child as his own.
Initially the young woman was resistant to this sudden “fall” from her chosen life, ruined by a pregnancy and a father, a military man who refused to claim the child as his own. Gradually, however, the land and the people on it worked their magic on her. She began to learn to appreciate thae “magic” of what was at hand – hundreds of species of butterflies, the friendship of two Japanese women internees who worked the beet farm, a small-town library she sought out to read cookbooks, the archeological “finds” on the farm that yielded up the history of her husband’s forbearers.
Of course, it goes without saying, being a Hallmark movie, she gradually fell in love with the farmer and his family and no longer needed to escape to fulfill her dreams, right there on the edge of the prairie, with a home surrounded by beet fields. Thus the title of the movie, “Miracle of Ordinary Days.”
My own path, while not quite so demanding as dealing with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy during a war, has been similar. Years ago, I was busy, busy, busy with my self-appointed tasks in the larger world. I was a minister with a small yet demanding congregation. I was a student. My days were filled with “matters of importance”: a crisis with a congregant, a research paper due the next week, lively discussions in the seminary dining hall with students and professors from around the world on philosophy, theology, politics, personal sharing.
But now, here I am, on my own version of a beet farm, three acres outside of Glenwood, Iowa, a county seat of less than 6,000, the nearest movie theatre 20 miles away, a truck stop the only 24/7 business. My days are routinely spent with occasional interactions with my spouse, who is mostly on her computer, four small dogs, a cat, a variety of wildlife, most notably the ones attracted by the bird feeder on the front porch, including a couple of resident raccoons.
Today was an “ordinary” day for me. After feeding the dogs and settling them in their outside kennel, I used my new gas-powered weed whip to cut down the knee-high grass leading to the road in front of our house. When tired, I sat under the canopy of trees whose new leaves sheltered me from the drizzle. I watched the rain drops making their way to the ends of branches before dropping silently onto the newly cut grass. I listened to the swishing of tires on the wet pavement from the nearby highway and to the birds trilling from under the cover of their overhead shelters as they good-naturedly waited out the rain. I smelled the freshness of the newly cut grass.
After the sun came out again, I walked my acreage. The black walnut seedling was showing new leaves, the butternut and heartnut, planted months earlier, were in full career reaching to the sky with their pinnate leaves. The pole beans, determined to provide us with early-summer suppers, were poking their heads through the clodded earth. The sugar maple sapling was leafing out, giving me visions of “sugar plums” dancing in my head, or at least the fantasy of making my own maple syrup in a few years. An easterly wind rippled through the still-uncut grasses in a sprightly dance of color and motion that rivaled any artist’s work.
With no time clock to hold my nose to the grindstone or supervisor other than my own internal rhythm, I indulged myself in an afternoon nap. As I lay down, the open windows sent in a breeze that caressed me into deep sleep. On awakening, I constructed a pizza and fresh salad from scratch, using herbs from the front porch, an arm’s length away.
Today I didn’t talk with anyone on the phone. I didn’t leave property. I simply fell into the open arms of the ordinary day that offered itself to me this morning. And it was truly a miracle.