Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wonder Where the Wonder Went

Despite a rather full writing schedule right now, or perhaps because of it, I’m trying to read more than ever. It’s as if I have to put words back into my brain after a day of laying them on out on the page. So I have several books going, and since I’m determined to work my way through the rest of the series, one of them is Little House on the Prairie.

 LHP set west of Mankato Little House on the Prairie is set west of Mankato, MN

As I read I’m reminded of something that struck me recently in Little House in the Big Woods: the sense of wonder which permeates the point-of-view character. Now she’s only six in the first book, and only seven or eight in the second one, so that sense of childish awe is not all that surprising. But I remember her innocent appreciation of the everyday struck me way back when I read these the first time as a child myself. It gave me new eyes when I went out into the world even then.

It’s a welcome reminder now, too.

Anymore, we’re taught not to marvel at the mundane as adults, and increasingly even children are becoming cynical and too worldly too early. (Yes, soon I’ll be that old lady who shakes her fist and screams, “Pull up your pants and get off my lawn!” at the jailin’ neighbor kids.)

Everything is “awesome” but nothing inspires awe.

We don’t want to seem naive, or to come across as backwoods rubes. God forbid we look foolish. So after a while we get out of the habit. We stop noticing really remarkable things all around us. Noticing and appreciating.

The first thing that can reconnect us to a sense of wonder is nature. Spring is around the corner, and the plethora of growth and rebirth that comes with it is a perfect opportunity to allow ourselves to marvel. Getting a tomato out of a seed by doing little more than providing water is … marvelous. The persistence of perennials after sub-zero temperatures is amazing. And baby animals? Don’t get me started.

But also think about the technology that we use. The connections we have via social networks, emails, and blogs. E-book readers. I-Pads. Telephones that wake us up, tell us the weather, provide access to the Internet, play music, give us games and show us movies.

Stop. Think about all that. Pretty freakin’ cool, no?

And personally I am often quietly astonished by the chemistry of the home. How soap works by making water wetter. How yeasts that exist in the air can be harnessed to make sourdough bread rise – and taste downright delicious. How combining lye and oil results in soap. How bacteria create yogurt and cheese, culture butter, and ferment vegetables. How water and agitation makes wool turn into felt.

What do you find wonder-full? Please share.


  1. The internet is one of the most wonderful things in the world. You can learn so much from just a few clicks of your mouse. In fact, technology is great in general. I know some people who are against computers because they miss the "good old days" but I think that its important to realize all the wonderful things that the interwebs have done for us. The revolution in Libya for example, has happened in part because of Facebook which allows people to connect more easily.
    I think the reason people are becoming so cynical and bitter is because they watch the news too much. Just sayin' I mean...think about how many depressing stories you hear everyday if you're listening to CNN or something. No wonder our society has become so negative lately. People think, "well there's nothing we can do and we're all doomed," instead of being able to look at the world through a more optimistic perspective. I think it's important to realize all the wonderful things that are in the world as well cause no one likes a grouch ^_^

  2. My daughter--she's two years and a few months old, and I can watch her learn and grow and change day to day. She helps me see the world through her eyes, which all by itself helps rekindle my sense of wonder at the world. If I'm feeling jaded I just need to go for a walk with her--just meeting a neighborhood dog or seeing a squirrel becomes an adventure. :)

    My garden--the idea that food comes from seeds and dirt and water is amazing to me (can you tell I didn't grow up with homegrown veggies?), as is the fact that it all tastes so much better when it's that fresh.

    Knitting--every time I do it, I marvel at the fact that fabric can come from two sticks and some yarn.

    The chemistry of food--turning strawberries and oranges into strawberry-orange marmalade, for example. I love that thrill when I make something new and it actually works. :)

  3. Hey Cricket. I was on a daily walk yesterday, and came to a childrens playground. I sat on a rise there and watched. Below ... some half dozen parents, some moms, some moms and dads, with their 2-8 year olds. Running, laughing, quietly having adult-type conversations (no baby talk). Three visible ethnicities playing tag. And it occurred to me that those little bodies in the swings and on the teeter-totters were this country's future. I was both awed and warmed in anticipation of what might be.

  4. Sadie, I certainly agree about the news being depressing. Check out -- it's a "good news only" site. And as much as I appreciate the old ways of doing things, the Internet is one of the primary ways they've been kept alive!

    Helena, the eyes of a child are the perfect window into a world of wonder -- so glad you have the constant opportunity! I feel the same way about knitting -- and crocheting.

    Welcome Jerry! I'm feeling awed and warmed just by your account of the playground. Thanks for sharing.