Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Planted in Pennies

Pennies have pretty much become obsolete in Canada. They haven't minted the coins in almost four years. While they are still legal tender, cash transactions are now rounded to the nearest five cents. I suppose many would consider them worthless. If you were to see a penny on the sidewalk would you bother to stop to pick it up? Well, I do. Deliberately. Every time.

This habit began about twenty years when I read Annie Dillard's Pulitzer prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perrenial: New York, c1974, 1988). In her meditation on "Seeing" she writes,

The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But--and this is the point--who gets excited by a mere penny?... It is a dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. (p. 15)

One day, shortly after reading this for the first time, I was walking down the street in a small border town in New Brunswick. A car slowed to a stop beside me and an older gentleman  rolled down his window and stretched out his hand. "Here, you can have these," he said handing me a small handful of assorted coins, "They're of no use to me." A little bewildered I thanked him and he drove off toward the border where he would shortly leave Canada, and his need for our currency behind.  It couldn't have been more than a dollar, but it was pennies from heaven to me. It sealed on my heart that tiny blessings are everywhere if we have open eyes to see them and open hands to receive them.

I've been considering for some time if I should blog and if so, what I should write about. Time and again I am brought back to the idea of the penny and of cultivating a heart that is open to seeing value in the ordinary, and the miraculous in the mundane.

This afternoon at work I found three pennies on the floor. Oh what joy that the world is indeed "planted in pennies!" I thought then of the significance of the three copper coins. For while we say that a penny can't buy anything anymore, pennies are still the currency for our deepest thoughts and strongest opinions. And so I offer you Thr3e Pennies: my two cents worth, and a penny for your thoughts. My goal is to share the little bits of wonder that are strewn throughout everyday life, and  I hope that you will do the same through the comments below.

A penny for your thoughts?


  1. "...cultivating a heart that is open to seeing value in the ordinary, and the miraculous in the mundane." Wise words, young scribe, and well-wrought in craft.
    Also, Mary, I do love the name of the blog, and its derivation.
    So this is my [first] pennyworth of thought to you. Thank you for publishing your two cents worth, for sharing with the rest of us.
    Mary has a blog! Whoohoo!!!

  2. I love the simple practicality of this blog. It speaks to my heart! Now where did I put those old pennies???

  3. I share your affinity for pennies and I love your perspective! I'm looking forward to more of your thoughts!

  4. I always stop to pick up a penny for good luck. Looking forward to reading more

  5. Thanks for the well-written article!

  6. Muy bien, common cents and poetry.