The Cultivation of the Ordinary

One afternoon last year I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen having a cup of tea. She has two children and a business that she runs from home. We had been catching up on our lives after not seeing each other for about a year and I was listening to her stories of the school run, her garden and how her vegetables were growing, a conversation she’d had recently with another mum about the environment, all the things which make up a life. Suddenly she paused, “It doesn’t sound very exciting does it? I suppose I’m practising the cultivation of the ordinary.”

The phrase “the cultivation of the ordinary” stuck in my mind and I’ve been chewing it over ever since. She’d said it in a slightly embarrassed tone of voice, as if she’d seen her life from the outside and had judged it as being mundane, boring, not worthy of a conversation. I often hear exactly that tone of voice when I’m helping people tell their true life stories. “Oh no,” they say, “why do you think that would make a good story? That kind of thing happens all the time.” Or, “People won’t want to listen to that, it’s not very exciting.” Or, “I don’t know what you mean, nothing actually happened: it was just a moment, something I’d forgotten until now.”

Now it’s true that every life has it’s dramatic moments, like when you got married, were with someone when they died, took that amazing trip in that foreign country or met that famous person. And those stories are of course, hugely impactful to tell and to listen to. But when I think back to some of the best stories I have heard, I remember someone’s love of their horse, someone climbing a tree with their brother, finding a ring that had been lost for decades or telling about why and how they decided to stop colouring their hair!

In the end it all comes down to how much meaning and awareness the storyteller can bring to their story, even an everyday one. My invitation to you is to consider those small, insignificant stories and to bathe them in the light of your awareness, to cultivate the ordinary.

“to see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower”
– William Blake