Appreciate the Now – Finding Beauty in the Mundane

Can you appreciate the colors of a grey November day? Can you find the extraordinary in the ordinary? Are you inspired by the incidental, overlooked, or otherwise—mundane? If the answer is no, do you want to be? Trust me, there is beauty all around us, you just need to look.

The Wasted Months, and Days, and Hours. . . 

Living in New England for the past twelve years, I’ve made some peculiar observations. In addition to learning the phrase “all set” can literally convey any meaning and/or emotion, I’ve also been astounded by the generally negative attitude toward the winter. In a place that is cold from November through May, I’m surprised at how much people dread the weather.

I get it. You have to bundle up, which is a pain. When it snows, it’s hard to get around. It’s not always pleasant to do things outside. You can’t go to the beach (oh yes, you can).

And the environment is so bleak—grey and dead and, well, better book a trip to Florida in February.

But there is a danger in thinking this way. When we live for the summer (especially in a place where summer is really only 2 months long), we are left with so many wasted months.

And it scales down. When we live for the weekends, we are left with so many wasted days. When we live for the evening, we are left with so many wasted hours. . .

You take my point.

I try not to live this way at all. There’s too much to appreciate in the little moments. Given the right perspective, every second can be extraordinary. Let me give three examples following this pattern. . .

The Architecture Of Trees

In the liner notes of his 1986 album ‘Conferring with the Moon,’ pioneering new-aged guitarist William Ackerman writes of his track ‘Shape of the Land’ (which is much more than just a guitar riff):

“In November in Vermont, you get to finally see the contours of the land. It is so lush most of the year that you see only the wrapping on the package. Finally gullies and ridges you walked into and over as a blind man in summer reveal themselves to the eye and to proportion. The theory is that this knowledge will help you in making your way the following summer, but experience indicates that the anarchy of green that wraps the forest tends to obliterate the memory as well.”

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Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . . 

To me, this is absolutely true. As Brian and I return time and again to our favorite hiking places in the winter months, I always take a few moments to appreciate the contours of the land. Certainly the colors are so many muted browns and greys, but the perspective is both unique and fleeting.

More so, I enjoy the architecture of the trees. It is only when they’ve entirely shed their leaves that I can appreciate their structure, unobscured. And set against a steel-grey sky? To walk through the bare forest is to walk through a photograph by Ansel Adams—a breathtaking study in black and white.

Try it, I dare you. Wherever you are right now (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere and it is late autumn), look out a window at the nearest bare tree. Take a moment and appreciate the symmetry, the geometry, and the art.

Trace the trunk to the limbs, to the smaller branches fanning outward, to the twigs that remain. Observe it from a greater distance. Notice the way the smallest extremities nearly melt into the sky.

And you’re on to something, no?

The Color of Light

I’ve got a great job with a tough schedule. I like the work (though not as much as I like writing), and would be happy there until I retire, except. . . Like I said, tough schedule. Working at night, Brian and I don’t get to see each other near enough.

He’s my husband, my best friend, and my absolute favorite person in the world. Sometimes it’s easy to wish away the weeks and pray Friday afternoon will come fast so we can be together sometime other than when we are sleeping.

But this is our reality right now. It won’t always be. It will change, but in the meantime, we each try our best to appreciate life when we’re not together.

Still, there are some days that leaving the house just an hour before I know he’ll be home is torture.

These are the days I remind myself to live in the moment and find some beauty in the mundane.

These are days I consider the color of light.

There is a patch of ornamental grass just outside the pool, and at this time of year the sun is already dipping low when I arrive at work. I try to take a moment to stop and consider the light—so golden in November, even more so in the late afternoon—and breathe.

It’s beautiful, as you may tell from this picture I took yesterday. But it is also fleeting. The color of the light can change from day to day, and varies dramatically from season to season.

Sometimes, when I have a tough time motivating myself to go to work, I think of this grass, and the light. The weekend may be the highlight of my week, but the ritual of observing the color of the light is a pleasure reserved for the work day, and it helps get me through.

So give it a try. I dare you. Find something beautiful and ordinary in your work-week routine, and stop to appreciate it every day. It’ll just take a moment, but have a big impact.

The Coffee Ritual

My schedule requires that most of my free time is spent in the lead-up to the work day. This took a lot of getting used to, because like many people, I enjoy the open-endedness of time at home after the work day—time when I can have a glass or two of wine, get lost in a book or a creative project, and have no definitive end-point.

So sometimes getting up in the morning and knowing it’s an eternity until I have that freedom is tough.

But if I live for the time after work, the rest of the day is wasted.

So I find a million beautiful little things to help me appreciate the mornings. Perhaps highest on this list is coffee.

I should note, we have a Keurig, and I only use it in emergencies.

I’m a French Press kind of guy. It’s a multi sensory experience, and for the coffee lover, there is perhaps no more authentic way to enjoy a cup, or two, or four.

It starts with the whole beans, jingling and singing as they land in the grinder. Then the aroma is released at the same time I experience the tactile pleasure of pulsing them against the blade.

In the cooler months, the act of boiling water warms the kitchen, and I love the hiss and chromatic tone ascension the water makes as it fills the French Press. With the stir of a butter knife, I hear the pleasant klink of metal against ceramic, then the lid goes on, and I wait.

Four minutes, sometimes more, I depress the plunger and pour. The mug warms my hands, and the steam delights my eyes as it dances and twirls and dissipates into the air.

And of course, the flavor—the end result—is beyond compare. It’s roasty and warm and bitter and black and—awake.

It’s a beautiful ritual, and as the French Press sits beside the Keurig, I realize, unnecessary. Except—it is necessary. It brings a joy to the morning that helps me to live in the moment.

It’s a reason to get out of bed when, really, I don’t have to.

So give it a try. I dare you. Take your least favorite time of day, and add a ritual—something that delivers a result you appreciate, but takes a little effort. Engage your senses, take your time, and see what happens. You might just end up looking forward to it.

Appreciate the Now

Alright, so, you might very well be a July-loving, night owl, weekend warrior. That doesn’t mean you’re required to be miserable on a Tuesday morning in February.

The only time it will ever be is the present, so why not make the present extraordinary? If you can find just a few things in your every-day life, right now, that are beautiful, then the mundane needn’t be so. . . mundane anymore.

Give it a try. I dare you.

Tell me your thoughts! Do you find beauty in ordinary things and/or rituals? What do you do to battle the drudgery of the day to day? What is something the inspires you that other people don’t even notice? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks as always for reading,

Gregory

Oh, and if you liked this post, you should probably share it. . . 
I dare you!

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itsmyhusbandandme - November 14, 2017

I do yes. People here are obsessed with the weather. I just decide what I want to do and do it regardless of the sun wind or rain. Funnily enough I was out walking today and picked up a beautiful and perfectly formed red leaf. I’ve just put it in an envelope to mail to someone I know who is feeling down. Hope it cheers her up!
As for coffee, I’m strictly decaf. From a jar. Now that is mundane and boring.
JP

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - November 14, 2017

    You’ve definitely got the right approach here. I’m hoping the leaf does the trick for your friend.

    And decaf coffee from a jar? What do you serve in the cafe?! 😊

    Reply
      itsmyhusbandandme - November 14, 2017

      Wahhh! I’m away a lot in hotels! At home it’s a very milky latte!
      JP

      Reply
        Gregory Josephs - November 14, 2017

        😅 Phew! Alright, now I feel much better about your choices! In your defense, I assume living in the UK you are required to drink copious amounts of tea as well. I can’t make a cup of tea to save my life. . .

        Reply
Aimer Boyz - November 15, 2017

Good point. I’ve wished away days and even years, thinking I would be happier in the next stage of my life. Better to enjoy the now.
I love driving, but when I walk I can pull out my phone and snap the little things you don’t notice in a car.
The light is different in the early fall, makes the sky more blue, the trees more green.
Any ritual that gets us out of bed is a good ritual :

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - November 16, 2017

    Thanks! Turns out it’s easy to write and tough to do sometimes. I catch myself often dreaming about some distant future when I’ve accomplished x and achieved y.

    I had one of those morning this morning when even the coffee ritual was a weak motivator. . . 😉

    Reply
stefanie - November 15, 2017

On my walk from my car into my building each morning, there is a memorial stone for a teacher that passed away years ago, before I started at my job. I didn’t know her, but she passed away very young and suddenly. She reminds me each morning to try to be in the present and appreciate the day. Her stone is placed in a flower bed, under a tree, and it looks different in each season. Looking at her memorial and the surrounding area is a morning ritual that is really special to me, and even though I never knew her, I feel like she has impacted me. The sight always reminds me to take a deep breath before I walk into the building and start my day.

Reply
    Gregory Josephs - November 16, 2017

    That’s really beautiful Stef. I think that’s exactly what this kind of memorial is supposed to do, and yet most people probably walk by it every day and don’t even notice.

    I’m glad you take the time. . . ❤️

    Reply
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