Wonder

Children are filled with wonder. Why does this happen, Mommy? Why did that happen Daddy? Their world is filed with wonderful things and experiences. As we grow older, however, the wonder diminishes. This is especially true in our age of Google. If we have a question we take out the iPhone and Google it. The things we used to marvel at are no longer worth a moment’s thought. We presume to know so much and we laugh at those who can’t keep up.

I recently finished a novel by a former student, Bart Sutter, who won the Minnesota Book Award in fiction with this collection of short stories (My Father’s War). I was struck, as I read, how this man is still a young boy, how he is able to capture those fleeting moments when the things around him make him wonder. I do not disparage here; I admire.

In one of his stories Bart describes a blizzard going on outside the house where he and his brothers have been trapped after visiting their Mom and Dad at Christmas. He describes for us the beauty of the snow as it is softly and gently falling and, later, the beautiful sculptures the wind makes with the fallen snow. While walking outside with his brother the hero of the story is stunned by the complete silence that surrounds him in the deep snow at night. I share with Bart my love of the Winter snow and shake my head as my friends head South to escape the Minnesota Winters. I especially love the snow that sparkles like a thousand diamonds in the moonlight or even the light cast be a nearby street light.

In all his stories Bart is looking around and seeing the wonders that surround him. And he listens as well and shares with us the sounds of the forest and the angry lake as it laps fiercely against the shore in a storm. This is a true gift and one that I wish I had. But nevertheless I can appreciate the world this author, and a few others like him, are able to create and put into writing. They help all of us to cling to the remnants of that wonder that filled us when we were young — at least those of us who still read.

Some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen have come during a Minnesota Winter and while reading Bart’s book I shared with him the wonder that the world presents to us each and every moment — if only we take a moment and look around. But we don’t. We are in a hurry and we have in hand the magic tool that allows us to look up the answer to any questions we might have. We have lost our sense of wonder. This is truly sad.

A good friend and fellow blogger recently said that she has no interest in turning back the clock to a world in which so many of the things we take for granted were not yet even thought of. In a way I agree with her. I would have been dead several times over with various ailments if it were not for modern medicine. And I am the first to take an aspirin when my head aches — rather than to lie down with a cold rag on my forehead and wait for the pounding to stop. But at the same time, those simpler times were superior to ours in that things moved so much slower and the temptation to hurry was not everywhere present. We were not victims of the desire for immediate gratification. We miss so much when we scurry along like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, watch in hand a late for something or other. Only we don’t hold a watch, we hold a mobile phone where we can check up on what’s going on around without even looking around.

I don’t advocate that we remain children all our lives — though emotionally a great many of us do so uninvited. But the wonder that the child has is worth preserving and should be carried with us in a locked box well into old age. It is one of those things — like love and beauty — that makes life worth living.

8 thoughts on “Wonder

  1. Hugh, it is often said that we must remain curious (and have a sense of wonder) to keep us young as we age. Even as older people, we know so little, so we should never stop learning. Keith

  2. Lewis Carroll speaks again, and again. One of my most favourite characters: the Cheshire Cat…one just never knew…never knew when or where the wonderment was going to happen or where it would be. Filled my own imagination with endless possibilities…

    Brilliant, as usual, Hugh.

  3. The hamsters are lazy, still fat from holiday cuisine, but eventually the WP ;pages are loading.

    I read this last night/off line and especially appreciated these very-eloquent words: “I especially love the snow that sparkles like a thousand diamonds in the moonlight or even the light cast be a nearby street light.”

    Very poetic, Professor!

    Beautiful writing is healthy on so many levels – and when immersed in exceptional prose, oftentimes we tap into the same supply and become extensions…. or so it seems. After being immersed in Thoreau, I feel as if part of his spirit continues to speak…

    I agree about the benefits of today’s technology, especially with medical advances. It would be nice, however, to witness a rebirth of attention to nature, to the earth sciences, and to interact with one another – face to face with gadgets powered to ‘sleep’ or totally turned off.

    • Many thanks, Lisa. Your comments are always welcome, though I know how busy you are and how lazy your hamsters can be! I do love the glittering snow and wish you could experience it. I love to think what you would do with that experience!

      • Believe it or not, snow sometimes reached the Mississippi Delta, but ice seemed to be the form we received more often. Ah, those February ice storms – so beautiful yet so destructive. One ‘Christmas Week’ way back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, temps reached almost zero, and of course pipes burst in the attics of many homes… Freezing temps reached New Orleans!

        Some of my best memories are of my mother waking me with the whispered words, “look out your window…|” of course I knew what I’d see – a landscape transformed into a wonderland! Usually I’d catch my horse and ride for an hour, but that was as long as I could endure the cold. Making snowmen with my sisters was never fun; ditto for sledding down the levee – I suppose a bit of hypothermia (?) hits really fast, even today it still shadows me when in the Andes.

        I’ll enjoy these tropical scenes (just finished a walk in the park – photographing water lilies and herons and gallinules!

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