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“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”


William Martin,

from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents


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I’ve been thinking about what separates the ‘ordinary’ from the ‘extraordinary’ ever since seeing the topic for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge on Friday afternoon.

“What’s mundane yet meaningful to you? What’s a beautiful everyday thing? 

What is the ‘something extra’ which turns the ordinary into the extraordinary?


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“I have seen so many extraordinary things,

nothing seems extraordinary any more”


Lewis Carroll


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It has been such a busy time that I’ve had to let the question percolate, without any opportunity to write or take photos.  Friday was devoted to bringing in as many of our tender plants as possible ahead of the cold nights which have come upon us so suddenly.

Saturday was spent traveling and spending time with loved ones.

Today was our last opportunity to finish the multi-faceted task of bringing every last plant possible, indoors, before cold wind sends our temperatures to frigid lows, not felt since last March.  We finished, already shivering, just before sunset.

We’ve been busy with ordinary tasks; yet the sum of them counts, perhaps, as an extraordinary effort.


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“If you pursue happiness,

you are an ordinary person.

If happiness pursues you,

you are an extraordinary person.

Do not chase happiness; let it chase you.”


Peter Deunov


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These photos I’m sharing with you today were taken just as the sun was setting; my last effort before coming in for the night.

I was looking for every beautiful thing left in the garden to photograph one last time, while its beauty was unmarked by our frosty night ahead.    Who knows what we will find in the morning?  That very uncertainty makes these flowers extraordinary to me.

And maybe they have shown me the answer to this koan.


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Perhaps it is only our own perception which distinguishes the ‘extra’ordinary from the ordinary.  Like all perception, it is entirely peculiar to our own experience and our own way of seeing things.

And yet our perception is a powerful force.  In so many ways, we create our reality through our attention to things; or our lack of attention.


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“My invitation to you

is to begin living every moment

as though you are miraculous

and deserve to live an extraordinary life.

Fake it if you must and keep faking it until it’s real to you.

The gift you will be giving yourself

is a lifelong journey of discovery,

one that is infinite and infinitely rewarding.

Begin the journey. Today.

This moment. Now.”


Robert White


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And so we are both the arbiter of the ‘extra’ordinary; and the creator of it, too.

It is through our appreciation, our own creative vision, that the ordinary becomes ‘extra’ordinary; and our mundane world transforms into a magical place.


For The Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extraordinary


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

10 responses to “Extraordinary

  1. Thank you for this creative marriage of photos and philosophies. Particularly good words to live by are these: “Do not chase happiness. . . ”
    if one can only remember to remember them. And thank you for the reminder that the extraordinary is within and without, everywhere. I too feel the press of the movement of time.

  2. Was that a Matilija poppy, or a Camellia in the 5th photo? On today’s topic – my take on it is that one will be infinitely happier if one can find the marvel in everyday occurrences rather than waiting for the extraordinary to blow you away. Contentment is key, methinks.
    We’re getting to that end of the year scramble here as well. I admit to not being entirely happy about it. And I sure as hell am a seemingly infinite distance away from feeling “done”. 😦

    • Dear Anna, we agree that contentment is the key. Those who need to be ‘blown away’ by the extraordinary may have an ever increasing threshold for what blows them away…. and how much it costs to have the experience. I was taught from a young age to ‘marvel in the everyday.’ Maybe that is how I avoided the ‘highs’ of my times which trapped so many in cycles of abuse….. It sure makes it easier to have a happy life on a budget! The fifth photo is of our beloved Camellia tree… first to bloom each autumn. I just adore these little guys and they grow here with wild abandon with the Dogwood tree. I hope you win your scramble, and get done all you need to get done before your first frost. 43 here still when I got up…. I hope we escaped the frost for another night. Love and hugs, WG

      • Thank you – I will do my very best to finish up. I think I’m good for this week, at least. If not, I suspect I will cram everything into my little garden shed and await the next opportunity. Your Camellia is beautiful. It looks like this marvelous poppy I have been lusting for for a while, but don’t have room for. Sigh… It is nice to live an unassuming life and marvel over the little things. It keeps at least part of the stress and the rat race to a minimum. Hugs to you too!

  3. Loved this line: “In so many ways, we create our reality through our attention to things; or our lack of attention.” So true. Perhaps it is a result of getting older, but not much seems ordinary to me anymore, everything is extraordinary and miraculous when you really think about it.
    Hope your garden comes through okay. We got clobbered last night, and again tonight it’s supposed to be even colder. Rather sad, but I’ll get over it. I will miss my flowers…spring seems really far away.

    • Eliza, it is very sad. I was thinking of you today as we dug Begonias and Geraniums and made those hard choices. I wondered whether you had gotten frost last night. I agree that not much seems ordinary anymore. I think the older one gets the more extraordinary things become. We certainly see things differently, and our appreciation grows with each passing year. I hope you have some flowers indoors to appreciate and enjoy while you begin the long journey of winter. Giant hugs, WG ❤ ❤ ❤

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