Nothing is exotic in itself.
Everything that is is very ordinary
or, rather, neither ordinary nor strange. 
I was reminded this weekend of the exotic beauty of my very own city, a city I've lived in for 30 years that I'd stopped taking the time to really see. One of our closest friends stayed with us this weekend, and she had never been to Chicago, so we toured the city and took her to several of our favorite restaurants. In Zen, we train to be present, everywhere, every time, not caught up in worrying about what is to come nor what has gone by. In the too-few instants in which I've been able to attain moments of such clarity and presence, I can only describe it as deep happiness and contentment.
Over this weekend, spending time with two wonderful people, we put aside schedules, timelines, and unnecessary responsibilities, and enjoyed the environment and the people around us. It reminded me of the quote above, which I read in the September 2006 issue of Shambhala Sun. Often I've enjoyed vacations for the non-ordinary things I see—different people, different buildings, different cities, different cultures. But my fiance and our close friend helped teach me that my city is just as new, just as exotic, as any vacation destination. Everything changes constantly, just as the Buddha taught us. And the things I see and experience in the WGN building, Millenium Park, and Pizzeria Due are never identical to what I've seen and experienced in my previous visits, if I truly look and live, without worrying about what is to come, nor what has gone by.
1-Minute Contemplation: While you're out and about today, take a moment to first smell your surroundings. Don't necessarily struggle to name the smell, but smell deeply so you really "get" the smell. Then look, listen, and feel. This place is ordinary, you've seen it many times before today. Yet it's different this time than last. It has to be. Molecules have moved, different people are here or have passed through. Things have aged. Decorations may have changed. Enjoy your moment.
 Excerpt from the poem "Once I got a Postcard from the Fiji Islands" by Jaan Kaplinski.