A Gift of Ordinary Time

Lilacs and Memories
days seem
 meant to pass
unnoticed,  filled
with fading ferns or
phlox, laundry blown both south
and north by swirling, lifting
winds. Tabled lilacs, fragrant, sweet,
reclaim those passing hours, renew their
 grace-filled beauty in aging, time-worn hearts.
Comments are welcome. To leave a comment, please click below.
For more information on the Etheree, a syllabic poem that, in its basic form, contains ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, please click HERE.

71 thoughts on “A Gift of Ordinary Time

    1. Thank you, Teresa Evangeline. You’ve given us so much beauty through your poetry, I’m glad you’ve found some here. It’s a beautiful world, with much to celebrate.


    1. Maggie, we’re just a day away from moving out of “the Merry Month of Maying” into those rare, rare days of June. “This time of year” seems to be good for poets and singers, as well as for gardeners. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem.


    1. I like to flip sayings, Martha, just for the fun of a new perspective. You’ve probably heard me harp on “invention is the mother of necessity.” Another one I like is the reverse of “seeing is believing.” Sometimes, believing leads to seeing. If we believe in the possibility of beauty and goodness, we may find it — lodged in the heart of the ordinary.


  1. I see the tag Ukraine, and the fact that you posted a picture by a Russian artist. It’s a shame that there are still so many parts of the world where people have never really been free, whether free from dictatorship or free from corruption, or most likely both.

    1. All the more reason to give thanks for those who, in the midst of tyranny or dictatorship, have dared to speak with the voice of liberty and live according to its precepts. We need those voices, those exemplars, to remind us of our own role in ensuring that the song of freedom never will be silenced, or the spark of hope extinguished.


      1. I too was intrigued by the Ukraine tag. Perhaps the artist is of Ukrainian background, or living now in Ukraine? The picture is just gorgeous; it’s true that Ukrainians love their lilacs—but then, who doesn’t? Enjoy spring’s fragrances, their caresses of hope!

        1. beeholdn, I began thinking about lilacs when I read an essay about a family escaping Russia. I’d never thought of lilacs as a Russian flower, and I began exploring. Photos of places like the Vydubchi Monastery were entrancing, and helped to shape the poem.

          Thanks so much for stopping by, and commenting. Your current post is wonderful. I’ve had some raccoons in my life, and mostly have enjoyed them. I’m eager to re-read that poem, and explore your site a bit more.


  2. I can’t improve on what Martha said. There is so much in this world worth seeing which goes unnoticed as we go about our business. A simple fading flower can be beautiful. Your etheree is again beautiful, Linda.

    1. Kayti, your observation calls to mind those wonderful lines of Wordsworth: “The world is too much with us; late and soon,
      Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” The industrial revolution’s a done deal, and we’re probably materialistic beyond Wordsworth’s wildest imaginings, but his words work just as well to describe our frenzied busy-ness and our inattention to the world around us.

      A wheelchair-bound woman I talk to from time to time put it best when she said, “I sit under this tree nearly every day, and I’ve yet to see two days alike.”


    1. Lovers of the ordinary, that’s what we are, Bella. We’re the ones on the lookout for pennies. Remember this, from Annie Dillard?

      “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?

      But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”

      I’m glad my penny-poem was a treat for you.


  3. As the youngsters say: uh-mazing! i had several rolling around in the brain this week while working outdoors. One about a drowned rat in particular. Did a blog post instead!

    1. BW, it’s an unfortunate fact of life around here that drowned rats — or those crazy nutria — are pretty darned ordinary. I’m anxious to see what you did with yours. I’m not sure, but I think a limerick might do better for a rat than an etheree. On the other hand, I’m the one who decided an etheree would do for ice cream, so maybe those rats would fit into the form just fine!


    1. Thank you, Ruth. I think Kafka might be right: “Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”


    1. How I miss northern flowers, Curt. Lilacs, peonies, forsythia, flowering almond, lily-of-the-valley — they were such delights. And you’re right that just a whiff can bring it all back. I think that’s why one of my favorite passages in all of literature is from Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past”:

      “But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

      The man was a genius. Not everyone knows about “Proustian memory,” but everyone’s had the experience.


      1. Beautiful Linda. Are you familiar with the folk song artist, Kate Wolf. She has passed on now but I really think you would like her. One of her songs refers to a lilac bush and an apple tree having a discussion at a long abandoned homesite in the Appalachian Mountains. They are wondering if people will ever return. –Curt

  4. I like the “laundry blown both north and south.” Reminds me of the farm and when I’d hang the sheets and towels on the line for my mom.

    I am behind on your post before this one, “Travelling Light.” But will get to it soonish. Loved reading the story of that weird bunch.


    1. I loved hanging laundry, Yvonne. And those shifting winds always meant it was time to keep an eye on the skies for storms, in case we had to make a mad dash to get the laundry in before it was wet again.

      I’m glad to know you enjoyed the story of that “weird bunch”. I thought about updating it with a little “where are they now?”, but I decided I really didn’t want to know. The story’s perfect just as it is, although I suspect there were other chapters written once everyone moved back home or on to Florida.

      Happy weekend to you!


    1. I’m so pleased to know how you experienced the poem, allyallyt. Thanks for stopping to read, and thank you especially for your gracious comment. You’re always welcome here.


    1. Gallivanta, I’ve always enjoyed the long stretch between Pentecost and Advent that the Church calls “ordinary time.” Feasts and festivals have tradition and celebration on their side, but growth requires time and nurture. No wonder the color for the season of ordinary time is green.

      When I was old enough to imagine but still too young — and short! — to act on certain impulses, I always thought of blowing sheets on the line as birds. Geese, perhaps. I wanted in the worst way to pull those clothespins and let them fly. I like your image of our spirits flying free, and wonder: what keeps our spirits pinned to the lines of the world?


      1. I suppose when I said my spirit was flying free, it wasn’t entirely free because the pegs were preventing a complete escape. But I find that comforting; that there is something there to steady me whilst allowing a certain amount of twirling and freedom and enjoyment of the breeze. I suppose it could be fear of the unknown that keeps us pinned to the lines of the world….????

        1. Well, now. That’s a different perspective, and one I also enjoy because I know it’s true. We need stability, too, and some of the best “pegs” in the world provide it: family, friends. Even routine, which gets such a bad rap in some quarters, is important. What a wonderful example of the way a single image — clothes flapping in the breeze — can give rise to multiple interpretations!

          1. Indeed it is. I was even starting to think of it in sailing terms; the sails aren’t much use if they are unattached! We can thank the ordinary time for all this fruitful thinking. :)

  5. Once again I love everything about this post — the title with the word “ordinary,” the illustration (wow), the words which bring pictures to my mind. Thank you! It occurred to me that if you wrote an upside-down etheree that it would look like a hanging lilac bloom.

    1. Oh, Rosemary! Leave it to your artist’s eye to spot the resemblance of a reversed etheree to a lilac blossom. I completely missed that. One of these days, I need to try some different arrangements with this form, and that would be a good place to start.

      While working on this poem, I spent quite a bit of time in your archives, admiring the lilacs there. And of course you focused on them for part of National Poetry Month. Of all the images I found, this might have been my favorite — a creative fusing of word and reality.


  6. I suppose this style of poem is called something special, am I right, Linda? As an English major, I studied poetry, but I don’t write it (nor, I confess, do I remember all the variations!). Regardless, I appreciate it, and I found this fascinating, as usual.

    Loved the beautiful photo of lilacs and the restful image of ordinary days, with laundry gently blowing in the breeze!

    1. You may not have come across this form in school, Debbie, because it was created in the late 1970’s by an Arkansas poet named Etheree Taylor Armstrong. Reasonably enough, it’s called an Etheree. There’s a link at the bottom of the post, below the poem, that takes you to a page with more information.

      It’s funny — I often say I miss the lilacs and other “Northern” flowers, but I miss the laundry, too. It makes me laugh that the people in our subdivisions who are most inclined toward solar and wind power refuse to allow clotheslines in yards. Aesthetics, don’t you know?

      Tomorrow’s June! Here’s to sweet breezes and pretty flowers, and lots of time for ordinary pleasures.


    1. I’ve found myself wondering if the plant geneticists haven’t been busy. I remember various colors of lilacs, especially white, lavender and deep purple, but I’ve seen colors this year I’ve never seen before. Perhaps I haven’t been paying attention, or perhaps we didn’t have such luscious colors when I was living among the lilacs.

      No matter which color you prefer, here’s a lovely bit of music just for you — Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Lilacs.”

    1. It is, montucky. And isn’t it extraordinary that the flowers themselves reveal the natural ordering of the days as the seasons pass?

      I just realized last night there’s a connection between ordinal numbers and ordinary time. Too often we think of the “ordinary” as being commonplace, or of lesser value. But there’s another meaning lurking about, which I may have caught in my title without fully realizing — or understanding — it!


  7. Thanks for the gentle reminder to enjoy the quiet, (sometimes boring?) days. I’m no longer a driven work a haulic, but still find myself getting into a funk if there is not enough to keep me occupied… just being honest here.

    1. It’s interesting. I’ve never equated ordinary time with quiet days, although some certainly are. As for being bored, I remember the experience, especially when I was a kid. We’d sit on the steps and whine, “There’s nothing to do!” Then, some adult would say, “Go find something to do.” And we did. We learned some important lessons along the way, about the world and about ourselves.

      I’ve been trying to remember the last time I was bored. It rarely happens now, but when it does, the reason usually isn’t that I don’t have enough to do, but that I’m doing the “wrong” things. Certain obligatory social occasions come to mind. Left to my own devices, I’m never bored -although I may not always have the energy for what I want to do, and have to adjust.

      When I think about this poem, I think of it coming around from a different direction to make the same point Annie Dillard makes when she says, “…beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”


  8. Oh, that painting is lovely. I’ve never seen nor smelled lilacs. They don’t do well here in our heat and humidity.

    The etheree is just perfect. Which reminds me…. I need to get the rest of the week’s laundry pile washed and peggged out. I got rained out yesterday!

    1. Oh, Gué. I’m laughing, wondering if “tis better to have smelled lilacs and lost them, than never to have smelled them at all.”
      People keep trying to tell me that our crepe myrtles — the so-called “Southern lilac” — are a good substitute. That’s flat crazy, and the sort of phrase that only could be uttered by someone who’s never smelled lilacs. Crepe myrtles are pretty enough, but there’s just no comparison.

      Speaking of heat and humidity, and the arrival of The Season, did you know there’s a town called Hurricane, West Virginia? I’m not even sure how I bumped into it today, but it was first surveyed in George Washington’s time. I imagine they’ve already started their preparations.


    1. Thanks so much, Andrew. I always enjoy taking or finding good photos for illustrations, but sometimes it’s the painters who get it just right — and I think lilacs “paint” especially well.


  9. I dream of finally settling into a home that has a lilac bush. That scent surely has wafted down from Heaven.

    1. emremophila, having a lilac bush (or a dozen) surely would help to transform any little plot into Heaven. All this talking about that ethereal scent nearly has me ready to go looking for a lilac scented perfume, or soap, or such. The only problem would be, just as I’ve found with gardenias, nothing created in the lab quite matches up to reality.


  10. “Unnoticed days…” what a word of hope when we seem to be possessed with being famous for our 15 minutes (or less in this cyber-age). What a freedom to know that I need not bear the burden of being important, but can relax into just being. Thanks.

    1. Allen, it seems to me that much of our current culture — e.g., selfies, insistent tweeting and texting — is pretty good evidence that many haven’t heard one of the basic proclamations of the faith: that each individual is infinitely valuable and loved. Not having to prove our worth to ourselves (or anyone else) results in a good bit of freedom — particularly freedom from the “Look at Me!” syndrome.

      You’d think “unnoticed” was equivalent to a death sentence.


    1. Twice I’ve come to respond to your comment, and both times your remark about being able to smell them again has left me thinking, “You know, I don’t remember what lilacs smell like. Or I think I don’t. I wonder if anyone makes a good lilac cologne….” And off I go.

      What’s interesting is that there doesn’t seem to be much. I did find one company in New York that’s willing to send a small sample for internet customers who don’t have the luxury of showing up at a perfume counter. Thanks to you, I know about them, and going to refresh my memory. It’s getting a little time-worn, too.


      1. We have so few successful lilacs growing in our hot southland that I photographed and smelled every lilac in bloom when I visited my cousins in France. Shoring up my memory for the long lilac-less years ahead.

        That said, I’d be interested to know if you find that sample to be a good facsimile. I snagged a bottle of lilac flavoring when a flavor company presented the latest in out-of-the-box food flavoring ideas. Of course, the lilac sample hadn’t the depth and subtlety of lilac blooms, but it’s quite pleasant.

        1. I’ll let you know, nikkipolani. I’ve not ordered it yet, but intend to, and will let you know what I think. I did find what purported to be a lilac-scented soap locally, but it was one of those better-living-through-chemistry scents. Not at all acceptable.

  11. Lovely verse…you are truly the mistress of the etheree..with such a natural affinity with the form. When I try I think more of the syllables than the message…and that is definitely the wrong thing. It is magic when both come together seamlessly.

    My favourite days are the ones that go by unnoticed I think…or at least the days unnoticed by others….since those days flow just the way I want under my control….even if it is just puttering or laundry or having time to play with photos on the computer.

    The painting you chose to illustrate is rich and glorious.

    1. Judy, one of the interesting things I’ve found about my own relationship with the form is that I can’t just sit down and whomp one up. If I try, I end up more concerned with the syllables, too. In every case, a line, a phrase, comes to mind and I think, “That would fit nicely in an etheree.” I pop it onto the back burner, and start pondering, adding lines, and reshaping. By the time I’m done, I’m sometimes in a completely different place than I imagined.

      I’ve got the start of another sitting in my files — nothing but a suggestive first three lines. One of these days, it will pop up.

      I’m a great fan of what I like to call in-between times: those days between great events when “nothing” is happening. Maybe it’s because on those days, we can make “something” happen — whatever that is for us.


      1. Whenever I think of that urge to save a phrase which seems particularly wonderful or a clever line or two for the right project, the quote below from school raises its ugly head. But, I kind of understand it because sometimes it is being stuck on that fine thing you want to keep ahold of which hinders rather than fosters the end result. Not that we won’t keep doing it just the same.

        “I would say to Robertson what an old tutor of a college said to one of his pupils:’Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'”
        Boswell: Life of Johnson

        I feel the mood to write some kind of poem…but right now its a mood with no story to tell. Either that or its after midnight…oh yes!!

        Sweet Dreams! :)

        1. Here’s another view of things. It’s a story about photography, told by Annie Dillard in “The Writing Life.”

          “Every year, the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year, the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles: bad and good.

          Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad stack. At length, he turned to the young man: ‘You submit this same landscape every year, and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?’ The young photographer said, ‘Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.'”

          1. That me goosebumps!! And that is true and what I call The Life of the Image. Every one has a story of what went into getting the shot. And the humblest of pictures can have the most interesting stories of how it came to be. Often, when I see an amazing picture…I both admire the work and the image on its own merit…but then I am taken over by the desire to stand where that photographer stood!!

  12. Beautiful, Linda! There is beauty in our day-to-day encounters with people, and in the ordinary things and events of life. That’s why Merton encourages us:

    “Let us come alive to the splendor that is all around us, and see the beauty in ordinary things.”

    — Matt

    1. I smiled when I saw your latest post, Matt. Clearly, there are more than a few who are seeking to reclaim the beauty and power of the ordinary. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to birthdays or Christmas, days filled with gifts or special celebrations. But each day offers its own gifts and its own opportunities for celebration. It’s up to us to accept them.


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