Commonplace

seeking the story in the ordinary

It was as if everything bloomed overnight, and I found myself missing the bare branches that offered a view of the farm.*

1 a glass of wine with dinner
2 laughing uncontrollably with my kids
3 seeing one of these signs in my part of PA

4 a rainy going-down-the-rabbit-hole kind of day

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5 weeknight water ice outing with my sweet family

6 handwritten book inscriptions

7 my child’s morning “I love you”
8 lying in the sunny spot on the carpet
9 writing long into the night, because it can’t wait

10 the familiar smell of your childhood home

11 in-laws you love
12 a response of “no, don’t worry about it!” after you accidentally bump into someone else’s space

13 a long car ride with someone you love

14 a quiet moment to conjure a memory
15 a dear friend showing up at your door
16 cozying up with all my kids on the couch
17 evenings outside

18 impromptu afternoon adventures with the neighbor kids

19 This, from my son: “You like making friends with strangers. Why?”
20 when the clerk slips an extra Dunkin’ Donut in there for you
21 neighbors always willing to lend a hand (or a ladder!) when you need it #ittakesavillage
22 getting in bed with a book
23 marking milestones with family & friends
…also: cupcakes made from boxed cake mix
…also also: post-hosting clean kitchen

24 yellowed paper

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25 coming in out of the rain
26 a call from across the street asking if I have onions
27 three boys in a bath

28 the cold underside of the pillow

29 the smell of mulch
30 meeting an online writer friend in real life

*You can read more about my “good things” project and see all prior posts here.

March is neither here nor there, a push and pull, a here then gone. A time of in-between—a march, indeed.*

1 standing barefoot in the rain watching my son wave to me through the school bus window
2 sharing an inside joke
3 a cozy day of never leaving the house

4 when the early sun casts the cornfields in copper light

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5 the comforting sounds of kitchen clank-and-clatter
6 speaking your mind to friends who love you anyway
7 a nightstand of books that beckon

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8 when your spouse surprises you by coming home early
9 finally kicking that nail biting habit
10 day care teachers who greet that last-minute pickup with a smile & not a smidge of guilt
11 a movie that makes you cry
12 longer light

13 the grocery store before a storm

14 a snug snow day with everyone home
15 fierce judicial opinions
16 antibiotics
17 a night out with the neighbors

18 a conversation where you cut through the crap and start to get someone’s story

19 a winter wedding
20 the thaw

21 a smile from a stranger

22 getting away from your kids just long enough to miss them
23 take-out dinner on the open road

24 five minutes of quiet, coffee, and a window by the rising sun

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25 stoop-sitting weather
26 clicking with a kindred

27 backyard hikes

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28 when your spouse empties the dishwasher because he knows it’s your least favorite part
29 going for a drive
30 finding a good handyman

31 dancing in the rain

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*You can read more about my “good things” project and see all prior posts here.

february may have been fleeting, but it was filled with these good things*

1 people-watching in a fast food joint
2 the second the hot shower water first hits your skin

3 a hug following a fight

4 family that feels like friends
5 a beer before bed
6 looking through old love letters
7 waking from a bad dream to realize it’s just that

8 a single plume of smoke rising from distant woods

9 a snow day with dear neighbors who help dig you out of your driveway
10 the heartening messages on this church sign, a mile down the roadimg_9059

11 winding country roads under a winter sun

12 waking in the dark early morning to write
13 a sweet valentine from my sonfullsizeoutput_6261
14 a fender bender where everyone is friendly and walks away fine

15 family freeze dance after dinner

16 unexpected mail from a friend
17 finding poetry along your path on a midday walkimg_9199
18 a new piece of writing in progress
19 a quiet coffee with your aging grandmother

20 coming home after having been away awhile

21 spontaneous coffee dates with your spouse

22 driving with the windows down

23 being barefoot
24 happy hour at the neighbor’s house

25 discovering a new-to-you writer who breaks your heart

26 watching a late afternoon thunderstorm through the windowpane
27 a gathering of Muslim & Jewish women to foster unity & understanding & fight hate
28 church bells at dusk

*You can read more about my “good things” project and see all prior posts here.

It was the last day of the year, when I always try to make time more tangible, pin it down, make sense of its passing. When I grapple with what it means to be alive at this place, in this moment.

The kids were playing in the basement—the younger two still battling a cold—and I’d tinker on Twitter from time to time, marveling at how everyone, everywhere was processing the same year end. When I stole away for a midday shower, I thought of a meager way to counter the distressing uncertainty in our broken world and in my buzzing mind. Starting January 1, I would record one good thing every day. I would tweet it out with the hashtag #onegoodthing, I promised, both to hold myself accountable and to bring others in.

For these small snapshots, these shared sentiments, are the same everywhere—bare feet under a cold comforter, freshly fallen snow, a favorite song on the radio, a train platform farewell. Tiny touch points that tie us together across time and space with their quotidian truth. It’s in the commonplace that we find common ground.

I seek what I always do with this space—to doggedly, perhaps foolishly, chase the good, and shed light on all we share.


january

1 the smell of outdoor air in winter
2 a quiet drive on rainy back roads to meet an old friend
3 an interview with @Lin_Manuel on @nprfreshair during afternoon carpool chaos
4 afternoon coffee

5 antique books of poetryc1b7hsmxgaestue

6 early morning snowfall outside the kitchen window
7 an hour to write

8 the smell of wood burning

9 family time around the fireplace
10 communal moments of laughter & levity (also, puns)
11 hearing your child read a book for the first time

12 the long way home

13 farmland as far as the eye can seec2el6fpxeaexpwn
14 This quote from my youngest son: “You have to look. If you close your eyes and you miss things, it’s sad.”
15 the unnecessary kindness of a local store merchant

16 neighbors who look out for you

17 sitting safe and dry inside a car while rain splatters the windshield
18 the rumble of a train passing in the distance

19 a house quiet with kid sleep

20 nostalgia pangs
21 walking, marching, the way humans come together
22 the warm weight of a baby settling to sleep on your chest
23 your poem in print

24 getting swept up in a song that takes you back

25 striking up conversation with a stranger in the waiting room
26 wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea
27 climbing under cold covers

28 an airport embrace

29 date night
30 the courtesy wave between fellow motorists
31 late-night conversations

Some have been shouting, some stay silent. Everything has changed, yet one day still follows the last, much like it always has.

Our burdens feel heavier, yes. But the beauty feels sharper too. Every small kindness, every gentle exchange. We are more porous somehow, risking both the scalding heat and the soothing salve of letting everything in. We have become more watchful—of our words, our ways with each other.

*

One morning in the week after the election, I woke in the dark and penned a little poem. Because sometimes a simple string of words can capture a shared moment. Because sometimes the sliver of the page is all you have space for.

I’m humbled to have that poem appear in an anthology of 100 post-election writings jointly published by The Rattling Wall and PEN Center USA. You can purchase a copy of the collection, Only Light Can Do That, here. (And below is a sneak peek of the pages with my poem.)

*

We don’t know where we go from here. We’ve taken down our lawn signs; we still work at being neighbors. I feel caught between catastrophe and carrying on.

But I zip my kid’s coat, put the coffee on, pay the bills. Buy peppers. Take long drives. Smile at strangers. Eat cereal before bed. Fold the laundry. Call a friend.

It’s still a beautiful world out there. I hope to see you in it.

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Jena Schwartz

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