I said that I thought the secret of life was obvious: be here now, love as if your whole life depended on it, find your life’s work, and try to get a hold of a giant panda.
— from Hard Laughter, by Anee Lamott
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)
Well, I wouldn’t say I did, really. Not intentionally, anyway. I mean, I spent some quality time with the Princess and the Conductor, and kids are always good at seeing wonder in everyday things.
I took them to see Disney on Ice in February, and the Princess was just tickled that she was old enough to need her own Metro card. We went to the aquarium in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and the Conductor would have watched the rays swim languidly around their big pool all afternoon if we’d let him. They were also the catalyst for renting a dragon paddle boat and paddling around the Harbor for a half-hour, though I likely would have dragged David with me to do that even if the kids hadn’t been there.
That’s the thing about me, see: I cultivate whimsy, if not wonder, just as part of who I am. In Las Vegas, I nixed David’s idea to rent the sensible silver Sebring and insisted we rent the bright blue PT cruiser. Aimee and I try on giant movie star sunglasses in the drug store and take pictures of ourselves, not caring about anyone else. I buy David a set of Sham-Wows for his birthday, because he loves the Sham-Wow guy.
As for wonder, it’s generally easy for me to see it. I work in Washington, D.C., and nearly every day I’m struck by the enormity of life that goes on here, and has gone on here, for hundreds of years. I pass by the sign that says, “Missing Soldiers Office, Clara Barton, 3d Story, Room 9,” and see words the civil war nurse and founder of the Red Cross wrote in 1863: “I have paid the rent of a room in Washington . . . retaining it merely as a shelter to which I might return when my strength should fail me under exposure and labor at the field.” I’m reminded that all the sacrifices of the Civil War weren’t made by the soldiers. At Red Rock, I told David that it was the most beautiful place we’d ever been together, and to this day, I’m in awe of the beauty we saw in the hard landscape. When I visit Karen, I usually arrive well after dark, and as I walk to the house from my car, I walk slowly, savoring the gigantic sky over her rural home and marveling at all the things we don’t know about the universe.
Sometimes, though, it’s easy to forget to look for all the wonder around us. We get caught up in the day-to-day business of living – paying bills, commuting, dealing with surly shop keepers, fighting with loved ones – and we lose sight of how much good there really is in the world.
So, although I don’t necessarily need to cultivate a sense of wonder in my life, in 2011, I can certainly work on taking a moment each day to see the everyday wonder all around me.