Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rediscovering Wonder

When I was a little girl growing up in the country, wonder was an everyday experience. The caterpillars we watched morph into butterflies, the birds we spent days trying to catch, the creek we wandered for hours, the snakes we actually did catch and keep in jars on the stone wall out back until we tired of them and let them go.

Today they say that children experience grief in spurts, moving quickly back and forth between moments of intense sadness and periods of play and humor.  That rings true to me, and it also explains why otherwise intelligent and perceptive adults fifty years ago believed the professionals who told them that children do not grieve.  Those moments of intensity come on quickly for children, and disappear almost as fast, rendering them invisible to people who don't want to see them anyway.  And children are quick to sense the latter, and learn to keep their sorrows to themselves.

Thus I could roam the countryside, play sixteen-inning games of softball, and splash in summer camp brooks and waterfalls, finding wonder easily despite the airless density of childhood loss.

For adults, it's somewhat different.

A couple of summers ago, I heard myself saying to a spiritual director, "I was, quite simply . . . completely enchanted by my children.  And then . . . one of them was gone.  And thus enchantment evaporated from my life."

I've been reflecting on that statement this summer.  Perhaps my capacity for wonder, if not actual enchantment, is making a comeback.  Or, at least, tapping on the door.  This summer has already ushered in its grueling moments, with more predicted ~ most of them having to do with pretending to enjoy myself so that others are not burdened.  But I find that I am longing for some genuine joy.

Interesting, isn't it, that this surge of hopeful anticipation should accompany my renewed ability to walk short distances?  Yesterday I walked a mile around my immediate neighborhood early in the morning, and another mile in the opposite direction in the evening.  It's such a pleasure to see the world on foot again, to notice faces and dogs and gardens in ways that one can't from a car.
In her poem When Death Comes, Mary Oliver, who has certainly experienced her own deep loss, says:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Regretfully, I will not be able to say that of all my life.   Or, perhaps, I will.  Perhaps the black hole of the last six years, sucking all the gravity into a huge and heavy space of darkness, will someday reveal itself as its own venue of wonder.
But for now, I think I would like to return to the more conventional forms.

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