To wonder is to admire the inexplicable, to notice a rare delight; it is to allow one’s curiosity to take a meander and prod at something surprising. Lately, I have begun to collect small moments of wonder. I pluck them from this soft world as if I was born to do it—to look and listen and be filled with light.
On the corner of the street I love is a tree, beside which is a small tuft of grass. It sprouted from a sliver in the concrete, and now it overflows from that small patch of dirt. It is insistent on its own existence. It’s a prideful little bush, shockingly green even when most other plants have gone gray with cold. Some days a snail can be found in the small mossy patch, sheltered by the weeds. I have named him Terrace, and I am quite fond of him.
It is a practice that must be learned, to notice things which are awe-inspiring. Some come naturally, the sorts of wonders which our minds are primed to soak up like a great ocean sponge.
As in, someone places a baby in my arms. She is warm and heavier than she looks. She is blinking up at me with those enormous eyes. When the initial nerves subside, and it is clear that the child is not going to leap from my arms or burst into tears, my mind wraps around the baby or the idea of the baby with a startling awe. I begin to rock her back and forth, watching spittle bubble at the edges of her lips as they flex in and out like she is considering telling me a delightful secret, or perhaps she is searching for a pacifier. And I rock her back and forth as her eyes close and I cannot help but wonder just how many times someone rocked me to sleep like this.
As in, when I look up at a building that seems much taller than anything man-made has a right to be, my mind begins to wonder at my own infinitesimal smallness in the face of all those busy windows. I am overcome by the realization of all those lives that take place behind each buzzing window, with the sudden tsunami of understanding that I am behind one.
As in, there is a particular kind of singing which captivates; it is the sound of ringing choral music that fills up even the most cavernous of cathedral ceilings. It inspires a rush of reverent wonder in my mind at this sound, for it is powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces. The rumbling vibrato, aligned with the pounding of my heart, is able to discern the very tenor of my soul.
Then, there are the wonders which are somewhat coy. These marvels walk around on tip-toe, dashing right and left, and dodging just out of our sight. They like to be pursued, prodded at, caught, which takes time, of course.
There is the sight of a bubble floating through a busy town square, up and up and iridescent with those soap-swirl patterns of color. It inspires the desire to leap after it like a child and pop it on my tongue.
There are leaves which flutter on the tips of branches, teasing my eyes upward, only to fall into stillness when I dare to glance up at them. They wink at me, shimmying in the wind in a desperate attempt to upstage the just-blooming flowers, which dance a more demure waltz beside them.
There is the gentle rock of a hammock as I look up toward rays of light which peek through the trees, lacing their way down onto my face. Under my back, the swinging feels like a boat, or a bassinet.
The practice of noticing leads to this feeling: being enveloped by beauty and awe. I think it is truly a wonder that we can see all of these spectacles and not wonder more. After all, if a wonder is defined as something remarkable, how could we not be compelled to remark on it?
Call out to the clouds sweeping by like a hazy cup of tea, to the butterflies which move so quickly you trip over yourself so as not to let them out of your sight, to the snowflakes and love notes and girls with ribbons in their hair. Cherish the line of ducks paddling in perfect synchronization, beads of water sliding down their backs; the song which lines up with the rhythm of your breath; the realization that someone has washed the dishes so you are spared the task; large expanses of open sky; multi-colored Christmas lights; the late afternoon light on water, the kind that sparkles so violently it nearly blinds you.
The trick is, of course, the more intentionally and often you notice these wonders, the more quickly they reveal themselves to you. You are paying attention to them now, and who doesn’t love a bit of attention? Thus, you become a human magnet for the wonders, and they begin to draw themselves to you.
I hear the sound of wind chimes, airy as a handful of tossed pixie dust glittering up.
I am expertly twirled by one hand, propelled by a giggling inertia that lasts long after both feet are securely back on the ground.
I see concentric rectangles on the wall reflected off the gaudy head of a disco ball.
I feel a hug from my grandmother, delicate and peppermint and enveloping.
I let sand slip through my fingers, imagining it was once the window of a bedroom of a young girl.
I take a breath of crisp air in the morning, like sipping cold water through a straw.
I hear De Falla’s La Vida Breve on the harp.
I am looking down from a great height.
I am beginning to regard existence as something unruly and curious, to be chased, and wondered at, and wandered after.
I search out those things that are found in delightfully unexpected places; moss under a concrete bus-station bench; a rubber duck on the floor of the subway; a sticker which reads ‘You’re Number One!’ on the black banister of the park fence; a sparrow hopping about at gate C9 at Boston Logan International airport; a book titled The Modern Guide to Casseroles in the philosophy section of the library; a single cherry blossom in mid-February; a bumblebee on the counter of my bathroom sink.
I feel those cobblestone streets and bubblegum sky while the smell of squeezed lemon greets me as I walk into the house—which signals either lemonade, meringue pie, or clean countertops; I grin at the houses with outlandish colors or improbable architectural designs; I taste Earl Grey tea and press my forehead against the deep grooves in redwood tree bark and feel the ground underneath my feet, pushing me upward.