The Miraculous Ordinary


By Wendy Hodge

A friend died yesterday. She was someone I’ve known my entire life. She was warm and funny and lovely. She was a constant in my life. And in so many others. She left this town many years ago, but she loved Opelika as much or more than I do. Her face and her voice were known to so many outside of O Town, but she belonged to us. She was an Opelika Bulldog. She was a Spirit of the South band member. She was a daughter of our city.
Of course, she was so much more than that. She was a daughter. She was a wife and mother. She was a professional and a friend. For the last 24 hours, I’ve watched memorials on Facebook and read remembrances from so many who knew her. I’ve cried for her family and hoped for peace for them. And I’ve remembered…one conversation that loops over and over in my head. It was more than 35 years ago, but I can still hear her voice.
We were young girls in high school, with the future looming before us. My friend was one year ahead of me and was preparing for her graduation speech. We were in the girls’ locker room just outside the gym. “Because the acoustics are so good in here,” she said.
I sat and listened as she practiced from note cards in front of the mirror. She talked about growing up and moving out into the world. She talked about obstacles and life lessons. She talked about family and how she would always be an Opelika girl. And then she said this. This one line. “Always be open to the miraculous ordinary – the beautiful, everyday, extraordinary small things that make life the glorious experience it is.”
And then she went out into the world and did exactly that. She listened to people’s stories and shared the miraculous ordinary in front of a camera. She did it so well that she won awards and was beloved by cities bigger than her hometown. She inspired people she never met. She is remembered by people whose names she will never know.
And she visited with me this morning. I’m sure of it. Before work, I drove to the fountain in downtown Opelika. It’s where I go to write and think and sometimes to heal. This morning, as I sat in my usual spot on the brick wall under the tree,

I wasn’t alone. Sprawled in the grass was a mutt of a dog, a mixed breed of hound and who knows, with his faced buried in the roots of a tree. He snorted and dug and occasionally looked up at me with dew on his whiskers and mud around his eyes. But I was not important to him. There was definitely something under that tree.
After a few minutes of this, I couldn’t resist. Dogs, I am convinced, are born with a magnet deep in their furry bodies that draws me to them. It is impossible not to pet a dog. He raised his head as I approached and watched as I squatted down next to him. Before I could reach out to touch his soft (and very unclean) head, he leaned into my hand and rubbed his face on my fingers.
“I see you’ve met Regular,” a voice said.
I looked up to see a man in coveralls and work boots standing beside me.
“Regular?” I asked.
“Yep. That’s his name,” was his answer.
“Interesting name,” I replied.
“Well, he’s an interesting dog. He’s about as ordinary as a dog can be. And that’s what makes him so interesting.”
As if to remind me that my primary job was to continue rubbing his ears, Regular leaned harder against me and barked a pleasant little bark.
“Yep, he’s just a no-count little mutt,” the gentleman continued. “But he’s about as perfect as a dog can be.”
“I understand. He’s the miraculous ordinary,” I said quietly.
“Exactly,” Regular’s owner said and smiled at me. “You got it exactly right.”
“My friend taught me about the miraculous ordinary. She died yesterday.” I wasn’t even sure why I was telling him this, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Well, that’s a sad thing. I’m very sorry.” Regular had rolled over on his back by this time, and his owner rubbed him gently. “Would you like to walk Regular around the fountain? He just loves looking at the water.”
He smiled at me as I took Regular’s leash and attached it to his collar. With only a slight tug, Regular was up and running. He leaped up on to the side of the fountain and gazed at his reflection in the water. And then, I swear, he looked at me and smiled. He tilted his head, looked me right in the eye, and grinned. Just an ordinary dog on an ordinary morning, living his best happy life and sharing it with me. It was a slice of the Miraculous Ordinary.
My friend was right. Life is an endless parade of everyday stories that are profound and precious. Other people’s stories, and our own…. the witnessing of seemingly average, unimportant moments that are, in fact, priceless. That’s what our lives are made up of, after all, isn’t it? One second after another of trivial moments and routine actions that may look like nothing special when you’re living them. But when we step back and look with our heart wide open, we see the masterpiece they have combined to create.
I’m so glad I knew my friend. I’m so grateful I got to hear her tell other people’s stories with such compassion. She was a precious part of the tapestry of my life, a bright thread that wove its way through the years. Oh, how she will be missed.
Wendy Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika.


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