The change in our daily life has been dramatic. We have been privileged to visit some very isolated places on our planet, places where wildlife thrives and humans live to do research but do not establish towns or cities. These places are at the edge of Continents where the weather is wild and unpredictable. Places of incredible beauty. During that time we have been one of the very few cruise ships and yes, even boats of any size that we have seen. Being a relatively small cruise ship has its advantages that way. We are well aware of how privileged we are. The Falkland Islands were our last taste of that kind of landscape and existence.
With stops in Ports in Argentina and Uruguay we are back among vital civilization – bustling seaside towns, shipping ports, lively cities. As I write this I am watching a container ship leave the port in Montevideo where we found an Anglican Church on this Sunday and joined them for worship. The rhythm of regular cruising is back. We go from port to port, sometimes taking tours to explore the sights and other times walking on our own. Sometimes there are days in between at sea. Each day has a predictable routine – morning reflection time, breakfast, activity of some kind (lecture or talk, exploring a port), back for lunch, exercise, relaxing, dinner, and perhaps an evening show or movie. It’s not nearly as exciting or breathtaking.
Ordinary Time is term the church uses for liturgical time between Pentecost (usually June) and Advent (usually December) and the time between the Epiphany (1stSunday after Jan 6) and Ash Wednesday (anytime from February into March). It’s time that is marked by the stories of Jesus’ ministry and teaching. Not terribly exciting.
The truth is that most of life is ordinary. And the opportunity we have is to develop the inner skill to discover and see the extraordinary that lies within it. It’s there in the surrounding life, in the people we meet and interact with, in the wildlife that is constantly around us (birds, algae, trees, flowers, ants). We simply have to notice and be present to what is right in front of us, and recognize that it is all a part of the web of life that we are immersed in. I have a teacher who once said “If you are bored then you are not paying attention. Look at, listen to, what is really in front of you.”
On the balcony of our cruise ship what is in front of me is containers, a ship being loaded, and different kinds of birds flying by. There is also a boat junk yard in the water not far away and I can only imagine the stories that go with each of those boats. The container ship that left not long ago is headed for parts unknown to get more cargo (it was only partly filled).
Today at the modest sized Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in Montevideo we found a small group of English speaking folks faithfully gathered for worship using the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal. A Layman served as deacon and preacher and the presider was a priest whose first language is Spanish. The congregation was very welcoming and at the Peace, the men kissed the women on the cheek (at least some did!). We later learned that they are waiting for their new bishop and are in transition. A congregant named David who comes from England but also spends part of his year in Montevideo took us under his wing and after worship walked with us to one of the main squares to see some of the sights. Most everything is closed on Sunday in Argentina. The extraordinary part of our morning was David’s hospitality and the quietness of a city that observes the sabbath. There were few locals on the streets and some in the parks enjoying their families. We ambled along, casting our eyes at the markets, enjoying the clear skies and warm sun (even though it seemed hot), greeting fellow passengers.
Often it is the simple ordinary parts of life that bring the most joy. Extraordinary is right in front of us!