Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Sense of Wonder

Whenever I got to eavesdrop on kids at my school recounting memorable moments, they were never about the perfect math test, the well-taught lesson or even the Spring Concert or Holiday Play. They tended to be things like the raccoon getting in their tent in the school camping trip, the snake that escaped its cage in first grade and couldn’t be found, the day it snowed 1/8 of an inch in San Francisco. Things that were the unexpected events that the natural world offers, those moments when we’re not in control, but if we’re lucky, feel part of something larger, mysterious, sometimes a trifle scary, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful. 


Tonight there was a distant storm on the horizon of Lake Michigan and we rushed down to the beach to witness it (note “distant”). And my two grandchildren were rewarded by the first jagged lightning strikes they have ever seen in their 6 and 10 years. They were in genuine awe, the lightning not only zig-zagging through the sky but striking their imagination and treating them to one of the great wonders of the world. I don’t know if they’ll remember this particular moment in years to come, but hopefully, they will be witness to more such moments of what Rachel Carson called “our sense of wonder”— lying on the grass on a lazy day looking up at the clouds, at night witnessing the canopy of stars and if it’s August, the meteor showers, watching an entire field of grass waving in the wind. If we would but stop and pay a little attention, such wonders are often all around us. 


Having invoked the marine biologist Rachel Carson (more about her tomorrow), here is one of my favorite quotes:


“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from our sources of strength.”


May it be so.


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