Lost in Wonder
It snowed this week in Michigan. Last weekend brought blustery, icy cold that upon returning inside required immediately wrapping up in warm blankets in front of the fire. There is a chance I even changed back in to my pajamas at 2:00 on Saturday. There are parts of winter that I love, and during the winter there is a lot of beauty to be found. However, firmly planted in mid-April, my soul is ready for spring. I am ready for longer days, for sunshine and bird song, for flowers and green. I’ve spoken often recently about the way my eyes seem to be drawn to the hints, vibrant green blooms and buds peaking up, a flash of purple, a soft chirping song. Being ‘highly sensitive’ has its plusses and minuses. One of the benefits is the ability to notice things that often go unnoticed. Sometimes that is related to body language, or tone, but sometimes it is the beauty found in a sparkly stone, or a heart shaped leaf. My attentiveness is on high alert nearly all of the time. And really, this state is not so different from that of a curious child. Ranier Maria Rilke says in his Letter to Helmut Westhoff, “And so it is that most people have no idea how beautiful the world is and how much magnificence is reveal in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. The grown-ups, going about their business and worries, and tormenting themselves with all kinds of details, gradually lose the perspective for these riches that children, when they are attentive and good, soon notice and love with their whole heart. And yet the greatest beauty would be achieved if everyone remained in this regard always like attentive and good children, simple and pious in sensitivities, and if people did not lose the capacity for taking pleasure as intensely in a birch leaf or a peacock’s feather or the wing of a hooded crow as in a mighty mountain or a splendid palace. What is small is not small in itself, just as that which is great is not—great.” When I think of noticing beauty, I think of the word I had tattooed on my right arm the summer I turned 41, “Delight.” When I think about being truly delighted, I think about a playing child. A playing child who is so lost in what they are doing; they may not hear someone calling their name. In fact, I think being lost is a big part of being delighted. Not lost, as in not knowing which direction to head, but lost in the sense of being so very happy, so engrossed, so focused on something wonderful, or something beautiful that you are not aware of the things surrounding you. As a child I loved to make believe. I enjoyed playing school at the large black chalkboard in the basement. I savored time making up lives for my Barbie dolls in their 3 story mansion (with elevator) and black Tonka truck (!?). I loved playing house, making up a life with my cabbage patch kids. I am sure my mom nurtured this love of make believe as some of my early childhood memories involve airplane rides on dining room chairs set in rows to places like Hawaii where there were leis and fresh pineapple. Of course, there were also epic blanket forts. We had amazing adventures without ever leaving our home on New Meadow Drive. I also have memories of exploring. Whether it was a hike in a botanical garden, or the Rocky Mountains, or a walk around the block-I was picking dandelions, picking up lady bugs, and looking closely at the small beauties. Fire flies, rolly-poly bugs, soft blooms on the branches of the pussy willow tree-I noticed. Even farther back brings memories of books, being read to from amazing stories. I loved the Peabody mysteries where I had to attentively search each page to find the missing items. I loved the big black eyes of Mousekin and his soft, cozy golden home. I laughed at Grover’s antics in ‘The Monster at the End of this book”. I could get lost in a story, become delighted with the world I entered upon opening the cover. These early books lead to a lifetime love of being enraptured with stories, and to this day I love to get lost in all of the details of a wonderful book. I love to read non-fiction to inspire and learn, but there is no comparison to truly escaping to another world in fiction. As an adult, the ability to lose ourselves disappears-to become so very delighted with a task, or a tiny item of beauty, that the world slips away. The world of ‘to-do’ lists, laundry, arguing kids, timelines and responsibilities stay closely wrapped around us at all times. I miss this ability to get lost in delight. I think deep down in my very soul, the child who loved make believe longs to be lost in play. I think deep down in my very soul, the child who loved to be astonished with tiny flashes of beauty longs to be lost in wonder. That play might look like writing today, or it might look like painting, or pottery, or cooking, or hiking in a beautiful place. I might also get lost in a spark of wonder- a tiny detail, pausing to ponder the blue inside of a tulip. It has been a lot of years since the time I played school, or house, or took a make believe airplane to Hawaii, but I long to pull the beauty of being lost in wonder back out of my soul. To slow, to dust it off and let it play. Play with and be astonished by words, or nature, or paint, or ingredients, or a story in a book. Our society has a lot of rules for adults, responsibility weighs heavy and does not leave time or space for lightness. I will not be ashamed of my desire to delight, to be so very lost in that time and space that the bands of responsibility loosen their grip for a short while. Really I believe after a spell of delight, I am ready to come back to the beauty of my ‘real world’ the beauty of the responsibilities God has given me, and when I return, their beauty will shine even brighter than before. It snowed this week in Michigan. Because of this crazy ‘spring’ weather, I created ‘14 days of Astonishment’. Sometimes, like the times it snows in April, you have to be conscious, to make a choice to slow down and notice beauty. It needs to become a practice, really a spiritual discipline in life. Could getting lost in something amazing be one way you play this week? Could you practice this discipline for 14 days and see delight bloom (even if the tulips are under snow at the moment?)? Join me back here on Monday for the list. Bring a friend-someone you can share it with. Lets follow the instructions of the wise Mary Oliver,
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”