Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reclaim the Wonder

McWane Science Center, Birmingham AL 2014
"When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn't the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it's the formless wonder of the child. Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we're lucky, we'll return to wonder again." --Anthony De Mello, Awareness

We've just come off a most adventurous road trip, hubby and I, in which we traveled 500 miles with granddaughter #1 (almost six) and grandson #2 (3 years old) to visit grandson #1, who celebrated his fourth birthday while we were there. What a trip. What a hoot!

We didn't know if we were up to it, taking two little ones on a 9-hour car ride. But you know what (one of Adrian's favorite sayings, btw)? We not only survived, but we had a great time.

The best, of course, was visiting our son and his family and the opportunity for the cousins to once again play together. An extra bonus included a trip to the McWane Science Center in Birmingham. As the photo shows, the aquarium was a big draw. You should have seen--and touched--the big stingray in the pool!

One evening we also joined in on a neighborhood get-together where there were hotdogs, popcorn, water balloons and water slides--and a small nearby stream filled with tadpoles. Have you ever tried to catch a tadpole? They are very elusive to little hands.

Let's not forget the birthday celebration itself--all decked out in a Spiderman-themed cake awesomely decorated by our daughter-in-law (and birthday boy's mother), Suzan. She also led the children in beautiful renditions of songs from the soundtrack of Frozen ( a big movie hit, I understand, of the six-year old crowd) especially "Let It Go." Then there were Legos, the movie Cars, and, oh, a new skill: texting. Quite fascinating to our young reader--and entertaining. Mommy and Daddy were given regular updates as to where we were on the road.

We started out wondering if we could physically make this trip. After all, we still had to drive 500 miles back. We came back wondering about what we would have missed if we hadn't. Mostly it was seeing what we often take for granted through the eyes of the children and recapturing a bit of the sense of wonder ourselves.

I hope I can translate more of a sense of wonder in writing. For me, the best forum for such an exercise--and writing prompt--is trying my hand at poetry. What about you, what piques your sense of wonder? Is an awareness of magical, unusual, amazing, unexpected and downright captivating surprises still strong for you or do you find the feeling lacking? Any tips on how to reignite wonder in writing--and life in general?


  1. There's nothing like kids to bring about a sense of wonder. So glad you grabbed up these special moments (and kids) and traveled with them. :-)

  2. So many things to love about this article. What a great birthday cake. What fun it must've been to have your grandkids with you on the trip.

    I love that you quoted deMello. Did you read all of Awareness? I didn't quite finish it. It wasn't breaking new ground for me, as I'm already well steeped in Eckhart Tolle, Alan Watts and others' writings of this ilk, and have taken seven Landmark Education courses.

    As to retaining or reclaiming a sense of wonder, for me it's mostly about setting aside my thoughts and slowing down. Then the wonder of the present moment is available to me again. But I have never experienced it to the level that mystics do, by no means. When I read Rumi, he paints a very strange but intriguing landscape. I can take him in only small portions, because there is so much to absorb, besides that I'm not oriented toward reading about ecstatic spiritual experiences. About being ravished by God.

    As to instilling the sense of wonder in my writing, it isn't even on my radar. You're trying to write, I assume, literary fiction for the 8-12 year old market. You're competing with Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting--what an opening paragraph!!!!) and countless others. What a tall order.

    I write commercial fiction. It's not that commercial fiction is devoid of metaphor and simile, but readers of this style of fiction read far more for story than for beautiful language and imagery.

    I hope I've made sense.

  3. Barbara, the children truly do re-open our eyes to the wonder of things, that's for sure. Thanks for coming by :-)

    And thank you, Cathy! So much in your comment, and yes, you did make sense :-) I particularly identified with how you say you reclaim a sense of wonder by setting aside your thoughts and slowing down. How true. Too many times the thoughts are swirling, the concerns loom, the mind just won't slow down. We have to be intentional to seek those quiet moments and savor them. I have almost finished deMello's Awareness. For me his writing is a good reminder of those very kind of things. I haven't read Tolle or Watts but now that you note them as writing in a similar vein, I want to give them a try, too. As for my writing, I'd love to aspire to more of a Babbitt (and yes, I love that opening, too!) but I struggle with getting the story out. My work is mostly historical fiction--the setting, the era, the imagining of what it all would have been like is there, but how to capture it all? Still working at it... :-) Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

  4. One of the most fun things is to go to a movie with young children. My husband and I still reminisce about taking our oldest son to see Benjie (which is kind of a classic now). To our amazement, the kids all talked to the characters on the screen. I find that's still true with my grandchildren. They enter right into the story. I also love playing pretend with my grandchildren. And my oldest grandson and I sometimes make up stories together. As they say, it's all good!

  5. Enjoyed your story of taking your son to the movies, Peggy, and how you play pretend with your grandkids. Don't they come up with the greatest ideas--they are so free and uninhibited. It's a special time of life to do these things with the grandkids, and I'm so glad you're having a good time with your special ones, too!