After more than 24 hours of travel spanning four flights, and covering four countries, four time zones, and three continents, I arrived safely at home Saturday morning. I was tired, desperately in need of a shower, and torn between which need I’d address first. As I dropped my bags inside the door of my condo, it became very clear from the wee fuzzball pawing at my pant leg and purring furiously that my first priority involved some much-needed snuggles.
Home. My home. Even though I wasn’t prepared to leave Malawi, it was nice to be home. Nice to spend the afternoon lounging with Elliot purring next to me. Nice to stretch out on my bed after spending more than 17 hours on one plane.
After an extended belly scratching and snuggles, I eventually started the process of unpacking, doing laundry, checking the mail, and all the other things that signaled to me that my life back in Guelph had resumed from where it had left off over four weeks ago. And despite the combination of exhaustion that comes from travel, and the jet lag associated with traveling back in time through at least seven time zones (as is my understanding of the space-time continuum), it felt good to carry on with these every day tasks at home.
As I was enjoying the mundane and not-so-mentally-taxing activities that made up the bulk of my Saturday, I pondered how easy it seemed for me to fall back into my Guelph life full of kitty-related things, bills, making plans to meet up with friends, laundry, bed-making, and cleaning up the kitchen.
It was while I was cleaning up the kitchen that I opted to reward myself with some freshly brewed coffee direct from Malawi. As I reached to fill the kettle two things struck me. The first – I didn’t have to worry about the water that was coming out of my tap. Assuming all regulations had been followed and barring any unforeseen freak contamination, the water was safe to drink. I didn’t have to boil it to drink it. The second – I didn’t even question if I’d have enough power for the water to boil. More than that, I had both running water and electricity in abundance and at my fingertips.
These thoughts made me stop for a brief moment to think about the things that I take for granted every single day, the things that I just assume are going to function, and the things that I am typically warned about when they aren’t going to be available for a short period due to maintenance in the condo. Things that people in Malawi don’t experience in the same way.
And then I looked around my condo. To my left sat my french press full of freshly ground coffee waiting patiently for the water that boiled in the kettle to my right. Across the room I had turned up the volume of a show that I streamed on NetFlix using an app on my iPhone to louder-than-normal levels; an attempt to drown out the noise of my refrigerator that was cooling the condiments and pickles that defined perfectly my summer-of-travel food stores. And I was suddenly overcome with a sense of abundance, and a realization of not just taking things for granted, but having lost a sense of the wonder of our modern day conveniences.
And the day continued like this. I would begin some trivial task only to experience a brief moment where I realized what I don’t have to worry about in the day-to-day that is my life in Guelph, a brief pause where I would suddenly realize how quickly and easily I’ve lost the sense of wonder that surrounds me. I should be awed by the fact that I have infinite access to the sum of all human knowledge in a device that I can hold in my hands and carry with me almost anywhere1. I should be amazed that I can turn a tap and clean water just appears. I should be marveling at the fact that I can create ice during the hottest months of the summer. But for whatever reason, we have this amazing ability to turn the extraordinary into the ordinary and the boring, the just given and the expectation.
I don’t know that this is good or bad. I’m sure there’s probably some evolutionary purpose for not being constantly in awe of the things we see every day. Perhaps it allows us to process the rest of the world around us, or to ask new questions that haven’t been answered. But still, I think it’s good to stop and take note of the ordinary, to see the extraordinary in the everyday. Because some times there’s beauty and magic staring us right in the face, but we’re too busy to see it.
1 In reality I find I’m more often than not frustrated with that silly little device because it isn’t fast enough, or because I have run out of memory to take another photo because it currently holds over 700, as well as several albums, and an entire collection of books. Nope – nothing amazing about that silly little thing at all.