Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Gift of Wonder

My husband thinks I’m a bit crazy . . . Well, maybe a bit crazier than usual. This summer I took a road trip across the country, from Buffalo through Denver and Salt Lake City to the Oregon coast and Spokane, then home again. Six thousand miles, give or take, in less than two weeks, so perhaps I could be forgiven for thinking a few things seemed off when I returned. Like the tire store near the café where I like to write. It just looked wrong to me, the first time I saw it when I returned to Buffalo, and it took me a few minutes to realize the whole façade of the building had been changed: new color, new type of siding running vertically rather than horizontally. Easily explained, once I really noticed what I was seeing, but still an eerie feeling: that sensation of the ground shifting underfoot.  When I told my husband that story, he gave me The Look. The one that says, “You’re kind of odd, and you’re lucky I like you.”

The writer in me loves those moments when the orderly world slips a bit. It’s when I’m off-kilter that the story engine begins to rumble, as though it’s easier to ask ‘What if?’ at those times when I’m not sure exactly where I’m standing. There’s the neighbor whose yard maybe had no trees at one point, or two trees, but definitely has only one tree . . . today. There are the shadows glimpsed from the corner of my eye, the ones that could maybe have a life of their own.  That used to happen a lot more often, and then life threw me a few extra stress curve balls, and existence became much more about keeping my head above the current rather than sightseeing.

But this summer, traveling through parts of the world I’d never been before, I saw wonderful things. Strange territories. And when I returned to Buffalo, and even the familiar terrain seemed a little off, it was like coming home in a different way. The universe had given me back something I thought I’d lost. It was the gift of wonder, and it made me look at everything on the slant again.  

 Bandon Beach, Oregon
 Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Custer, Montana

As much as I love living in the future—and I’ll talk about that tomorrow—there’s a downside to having so much explained, so much mapped out and contained. It’s easy to lose that sense of wonder, to assume that everything is orderly just because it appears to be on the surface. Those moments that catch me off guard remind me how many layers existence has. I don’t ever want to forget the glorious mystery inherent in life and in art.

One of my favorite singers is Jesca Hoop, with her intricate lyrics and unusual way of looking at the world.  Her “Seed of Wonder” embodies for me what makes her work great, and why having that sense of wonder is so vital.

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