How my mother taught me to find wonder everywhere
When I was young, my mother would pull us out of bed, 2 AM sometimes, in the chilly darkness. She would slip into our room with an excited whisper and gently shake us awake "Come see the moon! It's so beautiful!" We'd race down the stairs and out onto the deck, sometimes stopping for a jacket and boots. We'd stand under the light of the full moon for a moment, listening to my mom talk about why it was so big and full that night.
Sometimes, she'd tell us we could stay up late because there was going to be a meteor shower that night. Sometimes she'd run to wake us as the sun crept up over the horizon because the colors were just so beautiful we had to come and see it.
Other times my mother would run into the house after a long walk by the river to tell us that the red winged blackbirds had come back to nest near the beaver pond and we'd better take a walk with her to watch them. We'd stand on the hill above the pond and wait quietly for the blackbirds to land on the cattails.
There were days after long rainstorms when my mom would throw the windows open and let the damp, muddy smell of earth after rain permeate the entire house. She'd call us out onto the driveway in the last drips of rain to watch the sun illuminate the clouds and the rainbow stretch across the sky. My brother and I began chasing rainbows, running through the fields to try and reach the end or find the beginning. My mother never told us we couldn't.
My mother chased wonder. I didn't know it then, but her enthusiasm for all things nature was wonderful. She knew that out there, beyond the walls of our home, the screens on our walls and in our pockets, lay something incredibly magical and she knew we needed to wonder at it.
The other morning my children woke up early, really early. The kind of early that makes you question your life choices. Even thought it was still dark outside, they both had more energy than I knew what to do with. I opened the window to see what it was like outside and my three year old noticed the first signs of the sun rising. "Mom look at the sun, look at the sun!"
The clouds had just started to turn a deep orange. As I looked out the window I was struck by that childhood memory of my own mother whisking us outside to catch a glimpse of something wonderful, and I sprang into action. I bundled my kids up and we went for a sunrise walk. Both kids were very quiet, very content wrapped in a blanket as we walked. The street was really quiet, there was the faintest of breezes. The clouds slowly shifting from that deep blue of early dawn to warm yellows and reds, spreading across the entire horizon. We found a field near the school and sat on the grass, looking up at the sky with excitement and wonder. My three year old had lots of questions, as usual, about why the sun was rising, when would it get dark again and why was the sky turning yellow. In all his questions there was an air of excited curiosity, a joy in discovering something new.
A 2015 study from researchers at UC Berkley found that experiences like this one, the little moments that fill us with awe, actually have a positive impact not just on our minds but our bodies too. Feeling that sense of wonder is not only peaceful but helps us stay healthier.
Our children are born with this sense of wonder, this ability to experience awe. As we grow, as we become mired in the day to day ordinary I think we forget how important and valuable wonder is. We need those experiences immersed in the wild beauty of our earth, to keep us connected, to remind us what really matters, to fill our lungs with air and just marvel at something as ordinary as the color of the sky. In a fragmented and fear filled world we need this feeling of wonder more than ever.
I am grateful for my mother showing me how to wonder, encouraging me to explore, even as a tired parent, in the wee hours of the morning.
I choose to chase wonder. I choose to wonder at the world, alongside my children. We won't be dwelling in fear and uncertainty. We'll be chasing wonder, in new ways every day. Come join us.