The past week or so, the same message arrived through a variety of sources: in an email sent by a friend, a poem stumbled upon on instagram, a notice of a museum exhibition.  It said, “Look closely at ordinary things and in doing that, slow down, be more HERE.”

It started with Pico Iyer’s tender essay, The Beauty of the Ordinary, in the New York Times.  He asks,

How might we be enchanted by discovery’s opposite — routine — and find in constancy a stimulation as rich as novelty provides?

He looks to autumn for the answer,

..we come to see that the season’s special lesson is to cherish everything because it cannot last.

In our own life’s autumn, we are reminded of everything we must not take for granted.

Vija Celmins: To Fix the Image in Memory” announced the artist’s retrospective at the Met Breuer in New York City.  She is known for her deep focus of the quotidian: ocean waves, starry night, a shell, a space heater, a lamp, an envelope…  Each painting invites: “Bring your nose close. Let it slow you down.”  Like this painting of a shell:

Vija Celmins and Matthew Marks Gallery

…and a spiderweb, in charcoal, created through erasure…

© Vija Celmins, Collection of Renee and David McKee

On instagram, we found a sign by @mindpollutants. Today’s luck included so many things, starting with…waking up.

…at home.

…with delicious coffee…

…and went from there…to the astonishing Cooper Beech at Wave Hill…

Sally Schneider

Then came this sunlit W.S. Merwin poem, full of gratitude for small big things…

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A post shared by The Merwin Conservancy (@themerwinconservancy) on

Thank you my lifelong afternoon

late in this season of no age

thank you for my windows above the rivers

thank you for the true love you brought me to

when it was time at last and for words

that come out of silence and take me by surprise

and have carried me through the clear day

without once turning to look at me

thank you for friends and long echoes of them

and for those mistakes that were only mine

for the homesickness that guides the young plovers

from somewhere they loved before

they woke into it to another place

they loved before they ever saw it

thank you whole body and hand and eye

thank you for sights and moments known

only to me who will not see them again

except in my mindʻs eye where they have not changed

thank you for showing me the morning stars

and for the dogs who are guiding me

Lesson taken.

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