Appreciating the Ordinary
Last night I was lucky enough to be among the 180 people attending the sold-out performance by Hawktail (with River Ducks contributing a stellar opening act) at the FAR Gallery in Bloomington. This was the first show in the newly renovated space, and the first in the Hand Picked Music Series, showcasing “crossover” bands in this intimate setting. The space was beautiful, and the show was amazing. I could go on about the unique style of the music and each player’s astounding skill, but you’d get a better idea of that by finding them on YouTube — or, better yet, go see them in person if you get the chance.
One of the many “bonuses” of going to see this show was the opportunity to walk through the FAR Gallery’s current exhibit, “Somewhere Along the Line,” featuring photographs by Joshua Dudley Greer. The photos are captivating, not necessarily because they show stunning landscapes or grand architecture, but because they focus on ordinary places that we typically pay no attention to. The curator, Lisa Woodward, put it this way: “How might we best explore the current state of America? For Greer, the answer was to travel and observe the whole vast and varied thing from the unromanticized vantage of the Interstate.”
The Interstate could be described as the place in between where we are and where we’re going. As Greer himself puts it, “these roadways have been designed to suppress any distinguishing characteristics of place and instead construct a familiar and uniform system of functional spaces built for mobility and productivity.” Yet through Greer’s work, we see that even these places are bursting with “unforeseen moments of humor, pathos and humanity.” Each photo in the collection captures details that make you want to know, what’s the story here?
We tend to tell the stories of our own lives in terms of the highlights — the special events and milestones. But what do we see if we look at the “in between” spaces in our own lives? After all, the day-to-day makes up the bulk of our time on earth, so it really is what defines and expresses who we are.
I encourage you to occasionally record the ordinary as well as the extraordinary, through both photography and verbal descriptions. Every once in a while, just write about an ordinary day. Try to capture the mood and rhythm of the day with your writing: is your time frenzied? Relaxed? Contemplative? Joyful? What makes it feel that way for you? Take photos of ordinary things once in a while, too — the family sitting down to dinner, your kids going off to school in the morning, the pile of papers on your desk, even the dishes in the sink. If you’re a parent with young children, you’ll treasure reminders of day-to-day life when those kids are older and more independent. Likewise with any stage of life. What seems so ordinary in the moment will one day seem precious, and can be key to understanding your former self a decade or two from now.
You may find that recording ordinary days helps you notice details and maybe appreciate little things more — the feel of your favorite coffee mug in your hands, the way the sunlight hits the floor on a winter afternoon, the way it feels to arrive home at the end of the day. Maybe what makes a moment special is not so much whether an important event is taking place, but simply the attention we bring to it.
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