My daughter was putting an essay together for a school project where the theme was “The Magic of the Moment”. She talked about a special night when we were camping this year. After my husband and I sent the kids to bed we took a walk down to the lake not far from our campsite. When we got there, we were awed. The whole sky lit up in specks of fire different sizes as though each star were a soul and it was trying to connect with loved ones on earth. SO many stars….cascading across the sky. We stood there a moment and I decided that I needed to show our girls. So I went back to the camper and told them to get their shoes and blankets ( it was cold!). The youngest was almost asleep but she got up groggily and trudged down the pitch dark road. When we arrived at the lake my middle daughter just exclaimed, “WHOA!” The five of us laid there and took it all in.
I write about this because it opened my eyes about what made a moment magical for my daughter. There were two elements; her family and wonder. When she was allowed to just lay there, in safety, in the middle of the night, protected and warmed by her parents and stare at creation, this fed her wonder.
Kids are not allowed to experience wonder very much anymore. It makes me sad for them. It feels like we are denying them the very essence of childhood when we don’t nourish wonder and that turns into an adult who isn’t able to “wonder” or exercise their imagination as much as they can. I’ve been often told that I had a “great imagination”, I didn’t understand what that meant because I thought we all had imaginations. But, I think now I do know what they mean. I let my mind wander and wonder.
In my Confirmation class, the teens have the hardest time with the idea of “Wonder and Awe” when we teach the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The value of both Wonder and Awe has been undermined by a society that thinks there needs to be an explanation for everything. We can all just “Google it!” This doesn’t help foster mystery and it lessens their ability to nourish their spirituality.
But then, we cannot give what we don’t have. I cannot teach my child Calculus because I never took the time to learn Calculus. Likewise, we cannot “teach” Wonder and Awe if we don’t take time to nourish our own.
When we were in Yosemite, driving through the mountains, I was overwhelmed at the power of Creation. I, no doubt, drove my family crazy by oohing and ahhing through every turn, but it was a physical reaction to the Divine. A friend of mine calls Yosemite, “Yo So Mighty” and I think that is fitting. As we bandy about words like “Amazing” and “Awesome” (and believe me, I am guilty of this too) we begin the lose what truly is Amazing and Awesome. But when one is confronted with the reality of what Amazes and what is Awe-inspiring it is hard not be humbled by it.
Here are some things that, I think, foster Wonder:
Time outside: I am never more humbled than when I am in the woods, on the water or in my garden. All of this will go on without us. But it takes us to notice it. I love leaving little wild area’s in my yard because it allows the earth to do what it wants. I have been pleasantly surprised many times with the way that Mother Earth decided she would decorate a spot during one season or another. Leaving space for the untrimmed and the messy also reminds me that not all things worth our notice are clean, tidy and wrapped in neat bows. It helps me look at the larger world in a different way.
Time in Church: This works for me, but then I have found a community that makes sense. I find that the mission of Jesus Christ and the mystery of the Eucharist opens me to the mystery of all things. I go because, well, Jesus asked me too. I go because for 2000+ years it has survived and there has to be something in that, again wonder. I go because it is imperfect and that makes me more comfortable with my imperfection. It opens my mind to seeing other people in a more compassionate way. It fosters wonder in the whole of creation and my role in it. If your church doesn’t do any of that, find a new church. 😀
Time in books: There was a recent study that suggested that people who read more fiction were more compassionate because it allowed them to be “in other people’s skins”. I read both fiction and nonfiction in equal measure and would agree with how a book can change your life…or your thinking…or your perspective. Spending time with other people through writing offers me a sense of wonder because in illustrating how different each person is, it can also illustrate how similar we are. Does that make any sense? It helps me connect to that which I may not have in my own experience, or it affirms that which I already understand. Either way, it feeds my sense of wonder at the talent and the character of people.
Time with my kids: When my first daughter was born, my mother in law was showing her off to a dear friend of hers. She looked at Meg and looked at us (mind you she knew us) and said “How did that happen?” Before that, my husband and I hadn’t really considered ourselves trolls, necessarily, and some even commented that we made a beautiful couple, but Meg really was a stunningly beautiful baby. I would have strangers make a point of walking over to look at her and comment on how gorgeous she was. She had star-dust in her blue eyes and her face was just perfect. Yes, I understood but it still threw me. So her comment on some level rang true for me. How did she with her blonde hair and bright blue eyes and perfect little mouth, happen? Well, genetics is my guess since there are a plethora of people on both sides with those colors. But it never stopped me from looking at all of my children in all of their loveliness and wondering, “How did that happen?” With life being such a crapshoot, and me being such a perpetual mess, how did I end up with these three beautiful, intelligent and caring children. Then I think, hell, I don’t care, I am just going to take it!
Time with my husband: FYI, The above is probably his doing. But for me it is how he is a dreamer, an explorer and a mountain climber. He loves to really look at things, things I might not otherwise, and share them with me. He likes to find new views for me, new flavors, etc. and always allows me to take it in. He rarely rushes me although I have been known to rush him. This fosters a sense of wonder with all things for me.
Wonder is such a gift. It is a gift that we should guard and protect because so much of our spirituality, intellect and internal well-being comes from it. Do you make a point of fostering wonder in your world? If so, how? I’d love to hear!