There’s a short story by Sherman Alexie where the main character has a terrible accident and the next morning, wakes up and the woman he loves is cooking him breakfast as the kid is running around the kitchen. He sits and sips his coffee, watches the scene unfold and she fries up eggs over the stove, the oil sizzling. Then you read the line, “the ordinary can be like medicine.”
In catholicism, there exists this concept of “Ordinary Time.” It’s the space between the holy days, a time of year where you’re neither feasting nor fasting. In Ordinary Time, there are no great events or celebrations, nothing to mark the passing of the days except the sun rising and setting. It’s the time between.
Laura had surgery last week. Back in January, she found two lumps on her breast, got them checked. They were abnormal. Tests, mammograms, biopsies, waiting for results, the big C word being bandied about, on the phone with insurance, more tests, more waiting for results, endless phone calls, and then finally, a surgery to remove them. We cleared our schedule and spent most of last week taking in the medicine of Ordinary Time. We barely left the house. We pawed through weeks old newspapers we never got to, her parents brought over soup (sorry laughter, mama’s chicken soup has more healing powers), cuddled the pup, and tried to remind ourselves as often as we could to look up. That cup of coffee that spilled on the couch, Laura fussing with her hair in the bathroom as I ironed a shirt, the half eaten apple on the counter, this is the now that all the yogis and monks say we’re supposed to seek out.
Because soon there will be kids and then the kids will be grown, something will break and be repaired, a friend will leave town, the tree will shed its leaves, and you’ll finally finish the book. This is the Ordinary Time that instagram doesn’t tell you about. As Laura recovered, her best remedy wasn’t whatever the prescribed pain killer she didn’t end up taking, but the medicine of Ordinary Time.
Laura will (thank friggin’ God) be totally fine, but I found myself thumbing through some of my favorite books of poems which provided me some much needed nuggets of wisdom. Here’s one from Marie Howe on her brother’s early passing of AIDS.
by Marie Howe
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.
And finally, some shots from a few weeks back of us in our ordinary, around our home by the outrageously talented Hinterland Stills.