There is a hidden meaning, a hidden beauty, in life’s most ordinary moments. It is the beauty of the human heart revealed, where what we have in common is greater than what keeps us apart. If we can learn to see the beauty in these moments, whether they are in the light or in the shadow, we become witnesses to the spiritual, testimonies to the sacred. We become true artists of the ordinary, and our life becomes a masterpiece, painted in the colors of the heart.
A chance encounter with a boy on a bicycle, a young girl’s graduation from eighth grade; these and other small moments are the subjects of this beautifully written collection. In elegant prose, Kent Nerburn uncovers the wonder hidden just beneath the surface of every-day life, offering poignant glimpses into the grace of ordinary days.
Whether he’s describing a kite’s dance on the winds above the high New Mexico desert, a funeral on an isolated Indian reservation, or a dinnertime conversation with family and friends, Kent Nerburn is among a handful of writers capable of moving so gently over such deep waters. Ordinary Sacred reveals the hidden beauty waiting to be discovered in each and every life.read more
A two-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award, Kent Nerburn is the author of thirteen books on spirituality and Native themes, including Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce (featured on the History Channel), Simple Truths, and The Wisdom of the Native Americans. He lives in northern Minnesota.read more
Reviews for Ordinary Sacred: The Simple Beauty of Everyday Life
Nerburn's theme of a daily journey is echoed in this arrangement of his essays, grouped into sections and stylised first Dawn's Awakening, then Morning Promise and Day's Journey, then Twilight's Veil and finally ending with Night's Embrace. The first and last sections include one essay, the remaining sections no more than four, and the typical essay runs about 10 pages. Each takes an everyday encounter as its departure point, musing on the nature of human interaction and possible glimpses of God in those and similar moments, and builds from them a structure that is meant, I think, to represent an experience common to all of us, and yet all too often ignored or missed. And it succeeds, for the most part, though not particularly forcefully."The Boy Who Wouldn't Leave" is an early essay in Nerburn's collection. Nerburn describes a very brief encounter with a boy from his neighbourhood, circling on his bike while Nerburn is reading on a park bench, increasingly agitated with the mute but quite evident deliberateness of the boy's antics, until Nerburn looks up and says hello. What follows is touching without being overly sentimental; and Nerburn's reflections on his own children, their relationship with him and his wife, as well as his speculation on the boy's life (seen only from outside), is an effective entry into Nerburn's argument that our higher values are always on display, if only we pay attention.Most of the other essays don't quite get there. I think I see what they're driving at, and can admire their separate efforts to wrestle with Truth as well as the specific scenes Nerburn selects as a means of illustrating those truths. But too often, it's a formal, almost writerly recognition: the prose itself doesn't pull it off. Rather, it reveals the architecture, the theme, the principle around which the essay is crafted (without ever using those terms), as though a curtain is pulled back while Nerburn is busy at his desk. What is wanting, I think, is for the curtain to fall back into place, and the essay to put on display its piece of theater, its vignette, but for me that doesn't happen. Partly this results from Nerburn's tendency to tell, not show: most obvious in the essay "The Visit", or perhaps "Two Old Men". Here's a passage from the latter, describing Nerburn's mentor, and contrasting him with an elderly couple with whom Nerburn is also friendly:The other friends who were at dinner are wonderful historians. But they teach history; he embodies it. The passage of time is etched in his face and his memory, and is part of the fabric of his life experience. To understand his past is to understand America. Listening to him is to gain an insight into our world that can be attained in no other way. Descriptively put, and I have no doubt this characterization is true for Nerburn, but he offers no further anecdote or scene for me to see any of the man's experience, to gain insight from it, to draw any parallels to our national character or destiny, or even to know just how the man's face and memory might reflect specific experiences. And so Nerburn undercuts his own essay, as though I'm reading entries from a diary not intended for anyone but himself. The personal conviction comes through, but the impetus for that conviction is absent.read more
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