Poets of the everyday

“If your daily life seems of no account, don’t blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its treasures. For the creative artist there is no impoverishment and no worthless place.” — Rilke

I’ve been thinking about these words since I first read them a couple of weeks ago. What does it mean to be a poet of daily life? I often wish I were more creative, wish I possessed whatever spark of genius and imagination it takes to write fiction, to paint the landscape outside my window, to transform a garden bed into a tapestry of color or a fleeting moment into a poem.

And yet, much as I may aspire to make art, on a typical day the most creative thing I do is make dinner. I may practice yoga, talk intimately with a friend, do a good deed, or clean the bathroom – none of which strikes me as being very “artistic.” But Rilke seems to suggest that even such humble tasks can be creative endeavors, so long as they are done with care. If we are truly paying attention, then perhaps life itself becomes a work of art. We call forth the treasures of our ordinary, everyday lives by noticing, by cherishing, by appreciating the beauty that is right in front of us. Which is to say that, viewed in the right way, through the right eyes, everything is extraordinary: the slant of honeyed sun falling across the floor, the speckled globe of a pear ripening on the sill, the orderly profusion of pottery mugs on a shelf, the rise and fall of voices in conversation around the dinner table, the November moon sailing through bare treetops at dusk.

This month, I’ve been most deeply inspired by the collaboration between three women I’ve never met and probably never will, and yet whose lives have come to feel interwoven with my own. The connection began with an email from a woman in Germany who had read “The Gift of an Ordinary Day,” and had the idea to begin photographing daily scenes from her own “ordinary life.” She invited two friends to join her. Each day or so, the women share intimate, unguarded glimpses of their lives in Upper Frankonia, Munich Bavaria, and the Island of Ruegen in Estonia: a foggy morning, a basket of laundry, chickens in the yard, a child at play, an orchid on a window sill. I study these images in search of the women who create them, sensing kindred spirits, like-minded souls, deep affinity.

What began for me as an interesting coincidence – a reader in Germany had somehow found her way to my book! – has come to feel like a spiritual connection that exists beyond barriers of time and place and language. Every morning when I turn on my computer, I’m grateful for these glimpses into lives that may seem perfectly “ordinary” to the women experiencing them but that are, to my American eyes, exotic and beautiful and, yes, poetic. I am honored to be invited in, and I am reminded to look more deeply into the unnoticed nooks and crannies of my own life, to illuminate them with attention and gratitude.

In the garden of our imaginations, we sow and nurture the reality of our lives. What we see, what we choose to notice, grows in value and in beauty because it is beloved. Thanks to the exquisitely graceful, generous work of three strangers, I feel a more intimate connection to my own quiet life in the New Hampshire countryside. And I am reminded, too, of the deep and mysterious connections between us all. We are all human beings sharing this blessed, fragile planet, caretakers of both people and place. Performing the humble tasks of ordinary life with love, we become poets of the everyday, calling forth the treasures that sustain our spirits and feed our souls. And what could be more creative, or more necessary, than that?

To visit A Glimpse of an Ordinary Day: three women, three lives, three locations, click Here.

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  1. Wow. I am profundly inspired by the sound of this project and cannot wait to check it out. So much of what I aim to do with my photographing and my scribbling is precisely this: to record my everyday life. And in so doing, I almost always uncover glitter I didn’t realize was there. xoxo

  2. Julie Sochacki says:

    Katrina, I love your message and extraordinary photos from the three women—-truly proving through pictures that we all are connected and have a common purpose. Then I noticed the words of Lee Harris posted by one of the ladies in November…..I recently discovered Lee myself and he really resonates with me as well…..more evidence that we have a common purpose and that we are all ONE. Many Blessings, Julie

  3. Brilliant….wish I had thought of it. Having just flown over Germany (and landed in the airport) a couple of weeks ago, I decided that Germany is the next country I want to visit…so when you finish your book…let’s go…meet these inspired friends and explore that beautiful country.

    On another note, I’m so glad you don’t write fiction, where we all your devotees be without your weekly inspired wisdom that help make us appreciate our lives and the beautiful world we leave in. I am inspired by your words every week. Your writing has made me a better person. Not sure any great work of fiction has ever done that.

    Hugs to you and your family on this Thanksgiving weekend. Just returned from a glorious walk around town with all the fall color in absolute splendor – and 80 degrees!!! I was in awe every moment.

  4. thank you. i have never felt all that creative – until i started blogging (capturing) my days. who knew a day that seems rather ordinary is so beautiful in so many ways.

  5. Every time I read your posts I am so aware of how much I need them. They seem to come at the perfect time. Today we are unpacking, sweeping, laundering … thank you for helping me see the poetry in that.

    You do have a spiritual connection with those women. It’s beautiful. I just looked at those amazing photos – the ocean, the saddle, the girl. Sometimes, all we really want is to be told that we are not here by accident. That we are not a mistake. That our laundry and stumblings and strivings are for something other than they seem at the time. Thank you for that, most of all. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  6. this is a mantra i sing daily…to notice, be more fully present for, and cherish the ordinary magic of life. you are a treasured guide on that journey, katrina. thank you.

    a glimpse of an ordinary day reminds me of another stunning photography blog by irene nam and xanthe berkeley…
    http://londonvsparis.blogspot.com/

  7. My God. Each time I take a glimpse around me and a deep breath … I see things like this. But I never capture them as is. I must try harder.

  8. The more we can help each other see the magic and beauty of our ordinary and yet illuminated lives the kinder and more loving becomes our shared existence. The images of these women seem at once ordinary and familiar, a buddha here, an orchid there, and at the same time haunting as if one is pulled into a Bergman film, spirit infusing every molecule and photon. Perhaps if we can all see like Van Gogh, none of us need go mad.

  9. Again, Ms. Kennison you have brought us such insight and poetry of your own making. Thank you for allowing US to share glimpses of your life.

  10. How about this for a connection? As I began reading your post, I thought to myself: “I’m going to print this out for my friend, to give to her for her 50th birthday celebration.” This was before I reached the part about the three women in Germany. This same friend of mine happens to have a deep affection for Germany! Earlier in her life, she lived there for a few years. I’m sure she will be thrilled to learn of the blog inspired by your book, Katrina. This friend of mine– and I–also have a friend from Germany. I’m sure she will love these images from her homeland, too.

    My “Joy to the World” blog is/was an attempt at this same sort of appreciatiton and documentation of the ordinary, joyful moments. I haven’t given up on the idea of maintaining (read as: regularly posting!) this sort of blog–I have come to focus on making it more a daily practice in my mind–planning to transfer it to some sort of uniform recording device (I’ve used writing, photographs, blogging, writing letters/notes to friends, creative art) in the end.

    Thank you for sharing these 3 women who have been inspired by your work. I’m another one of those women!

    Hope your Thanksgiving was poetry to your heart.

  11. The pictures from the German ladies were such a treat-wish we could have an around the world project like that-it is a wonderful idea. Germany strikes me as beautiful. The ladies really captured joy and beauty in the everyday.

  12. Such a beautiful post and a helpful reminder to recognize the poetry even in the ordinary and the interconnectedness of us all. I can’t help but think of this quote by John Muir, one of my favorites, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Indeed! I find it to be true on both a physical and spiritual level.
    X Meredith

  13. Susan Keeley says:

    Thoreau
    “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.”

    Katrina-You’re a master artist, your words speak powerfully to many hearts.

  14. You say you wish to be more creative. Just know that the words you post are creativity and inspiration. Reading your blogs every now and then touch something deep inside my soul. That, in itself, is a creative gift.

  15. One of your blog readers, a friend of mine in New England, sent me a link to your blog, suggesting you would also enjoy reading mine, about writing and life. I’m glad she introduced me to you!

  16. Wow – This is absolutely beautiful. What a fabulous idea! You aren’t inspired to create something like this on a broader scale, are you? I’m sure you have many readers who would together create an extraordinary photo montage of ordinary days, everywhere.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  17. Every time you write a word you are making art, and beautiful art it is. I feel thoroughly inspired whenever I come to read, my soul feels uplifted and I feel a renewed sense of the person I hope to one day be.

  18. Ahhh, what truth you write here and, of course, what you are about and inspire in others…revealing in the ordinary. Everyday spirituality, everyday sacredness. Now more than ever as a mom to two little ones, I find that THERE IS NO OTHER WAY — to find, see, be open to the divine in the ordinary. It’s funny, I once entered a writing contest in which we were to write about the most extraordinary day. I wrote about an ordinary day. My article didn’t get selected, go figure, but I see how our culture realllllly is moving toward this “going back” to the honoring and marveling in the everyday. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY. Most often my own poetry rises up out of the most ordinary of events. Even like bath time. I’ll share the link here if you’d like! http://barefootbarn.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/bath-time/
    Thank you for your books, your presence in this world, your inspiration. Blessings to you, Lisa

  19. What a wonderful reminder. Thank you.

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