I was on a plane to Miami a few weeks ago. It was my fifth flight inside of a week. I’m a jaded traveler. I don’t pay attention to the safety announcements, I always bring a bottle of water and go to the ladies room as soon as they start boarding. This kills time for the inevitable “those who need extra time to board the plane.” I am always habitual and with this trip I was hoping for no snags in my connections or weather in Atlanta. I almost always sit by the window but rarely look out. Until I saw this little boy looking out the window some three rows in front of me. He had wonder in his eyes. It caught my attention with a wisp of admiration. I want that. His mouth was open in awe. He couldn’t believe the magic of the clouds befor him. He had wonder oozing from him.
I took his picture knowing that I wanted to write about it. And to look for ways to get wonder back in my life. It’s happenstance that the leaves in Eastern North Carolina are just starting to turn as we enter autumn. I was going to Miami to visit my son and to see him compete in a weightlifting competition. For most of the two-day trip, I had nothing to do. All I could do was sit, walk or look for wonder. The awe-inspiring moments of life are way top easily overlooked. So, I went about looking for them as a direct consequence of the boy on the plane.
Here is how to have wonder in your life:
- Patience. This has never been my strong suit and omnipresent technology distractions don’t help in the least. When we are constantly striving to move forward and pay attention to more than what’s in front of us, we miss the little things. I took note of this when I saw a family waiting for mom at the airport, with signs that read: “We ran out of diapers three days ago.” I forced myself to overcome the urge to text my son to say, “I’ll just take a taxi,” because I’m too impatient to wait. To force myself to be okay with the cable being out and not calling the company multiple times – it won’t change a thing. And to wait for the orchid to bloom, instead of buying flowers at the store. Restraint exposes wonder.
- Be open. I ended up spending the majority of Sunday at the coffee shop (White Rose Coffee) where my son works. He had the second season of Better Call Saul on the big screen television. I had no desire to start mid-season on a new television show. My son Benson pointed out that he had started watching Breaking Bad mid-season when I was home after surgery. So there I sat, watching some five episodes and watching with wonder as my son served guests. I even ate some vegan pirogi so I wouldn’t have to leave for lunch. If he missed a section, I would catch him up. Be open to the experience.
- Venue. It never hurts to change your venue. Even if it’s a new coffee shop instead of your usual place. Walk your neighborhood in a different direction. Park in a different spot at work. I wrote about a side trip to Assateague Island when I was headed to a wedding in Delaware. Take time to go to a museum, garden or restaurant when you are in a new town, even if you’re on business. I have a friend who had been to Chicago several times on business and made it a point to consistently go a day early to see the sites of Chicago. What’s the point of traveling if you never stop and see the sights? Seek out new venues and sit back with wonder.
- Child’s Lens. When I saw that little boy with his mouth agape as he looked out the window of the plane, I looked out the window with my mouth agape. I suddenly appreciated the fluffy white clouds below me. When I walked this morning, I saw a break in the clouds where the sun shined down as if being summoned by angels. Look at something like you are five-years-old and suddenly, this becomes your first plane ride, car ride, ferry ride, escalator ride, taxi ride, train ride, truck ride, roller coaster ride–any kind of ride. Put on your five-year-old glasses and wonder.
- Focus. I am sitting here writing as I watch my dog stalk a squirrel outside. I’m trying to figure out what the squirrel is eating as my dog, Baci, is laser-focused on that squirrel. I realize now that Baci is in wonder (probably wondering how tasty that squirrel might be if she ever caught one…she never has). It wouldn’t matter if I put a steak on the floor or offered her a treat, she is mesmerized by that squirrel. I can remember seeing a Matisse at the National Gallery in D.C. If you stood really close, you could see the brush strokes, and you end up not focusing on the forest as a whole, but rather seeing the details in the trees. Wonder starts with focusing and being mesmerized by the detail.
Wonder is really just another word for curiosity. Curiosity is the cure for fear. It helps us open ourselves to a new experience, or reliving an old experience in a new way. What are you in wonder of?