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Many of you are doubtlessly familiar with Mary Oliver’s “The Summer’s Day”–with its moving invitation to attentiveness and to relishing one’s “one wild and precious life.” But in these long days of “ordinary time,” we might just need a reminder that even when things seem even less than ideal, even when we’ve seen something “a thousand times”–whether our environment, our people, our work–there is still more to see, more to love, more to celebrate.

Summer Morning
Mary Oliver
I implore you,
it’s time to come back
from the dark,

it’s morning,
the hill are pink
and the roses
whatever they felt

in the valley of night
are opening now
their soft dresses,
their leaves

are shining.
Why are you laggard?
Sure you have seen this
a thousand times,

which isn’t half enough.
Let the world
have its way with you,
luminous as it is

with mystery
and pain–
graced as it is
with the ordinary.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I’ve taught English at Calvin College since 1998–where I get to read books and talk about them for a living. What could be better? Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture (and yes, I realize that that is a very long subtitle). I also do various administrative things across campus. As an Army brat, I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I’ve now lived in Grand Rapids. I count myself rich in friends and family. I enjoy kayaking and hiking. I collect cookbooks (and also like to cook), listen to all kinds of music, and watch all manner of movies and tv shows. I love George Eliot, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Dante, E.M. Delafield, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Charlotte Bronte (among others). And I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: “I’d rather be reading Flannery O’Connor.” Which is true.

One Comment

  • Marjorie VanderWagen says:

    I like the word “ordinary”. Whenever I would use it as a reply to a doctor’s question “How are things going?”. He didn’t like it.
    But I view ordinary as a good word. Nothing is achy or unusual and nothing is miraculously good.
    For me, ordinary is sitting outside early in the morning, viewing the plants and flowers on the deck. Waiting for God to tell me what we will do today.

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