“Wonder is the basis of worship.” Thomas Carlyle, philosopher (1795 -1881).
For this week’s spiritual practice of writing, we explore the theme of wonder. Author Brian Doyle says “Nothing could be as useful, as generative of joy and mercy, as energizing and refreshing, as nakedly holy, as a faucet of wonder that never shuts off.”
Moments of wonder for me include: making snow angels under the northern lights in Saskatchewan, watching a baby blue jay learn to fly in my back garden, even watching the epic paintball battle of season one of Community. All these experiences were intersections where my spirit met the greater whole and said “wow”. The vastness of the universe, the beautiful life surrounding us, the comedic brilliance of humanity, all remind me that this planet is an amazing place to live.
Please see last week’s post for the protocol of this spiritual practice. Find a quiet place and plan to take at least 10 minutes for writing.
Where and when and how have you experienced wonder? What moments have made in awe at the wonders of the world?
Describe each experience in detail: where you were, who you were with, what it looked like, what it sounded like, and what it felt like.
A couple of Sunday mornings past I drove down to the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga after spending a few days with my fellow Canadian Unitarian Council board members at the Ecology Retreat Centre in Hockley Valley. We’d had gorgeous weather on Saturday, with the just beginning to colour leaves glowing in the sunshine in the woods. It was a good meeting but I was tired, and feeling a little unprepared for worship as I left the Centre in the pouring rain.
Fortunately, moments of wonder can happen in the most unexpected places.
I drove down Highway 10, passing green forests with an occasional highlight of red-orange brilliance. Shelagh Rogers was interviewing Lenard Cohen on CBC One. Then KD Lang began singing Cohen’s Hallelujah. And I had one of those moments when you simply are in the moment – the pouring rain, the thunk thunk of the windshield wipers, the flashes of autumn colour, Shelagh’s warm tones, Leonard’s raspiness and the power of KD’s voice offering a bittersweet song all combined into a moment of perfect beingness – a feeling that to simply be alive here and now in this place filled with all sorts of beauty was enough. It’s hard to describe these moments of just being, but they allow me to not be me and just be immersed in the present, in presence.
I stopped worrying about the service and had a peaceful drive through the storm.
Here is K.D. Lang’s gorgeous rendition of Hallelujah from the 2005 Junos.
I find the natural world fascinating, full of absurdly beautiful creatures, so rewarding to a patient observer. Many years ago we lived in an apartment that had its share of domestic wildlife – squirrels and raccoons lived in the attic, mice in the walls. Our kitchen was home to black ants. I tried to deter them in unsuccessful, non-toxic ways and would sweep them away or step on them when I saw them. One day I was cleaning up our round kitchen table and saw a black ant perched near the edge. I had raised my hand to sweep it off when I realized that the ant was cleaning its face and antennae just like my cats. It was stroking its antennae like a minature black panther. This kinship with my beloved cats was astonishing to me, and I sat on a chair and watched the ant for at least five minutes. Black, with a not-quite-glossy sheen, delicate legs and antennae, the ant was gorgeous. In the days after, I found myself watching the ants trundle around the countertops, gently shooing them out of the way, lifting them out of places I didn’t want them. If they fell in the sink when I was doing the dishes I would fish them out and set them curled up on the counter; after a time, in which I was sure they were dead, they would stretch out and shake off the water, and wander off. I haven’t been able to hurt an ant since.
This memory came back after I saw this book trailer for Step Gently Out, a poem about paying attention to the world. It feels like a message we need to hear over and over again. Written by Helen Frost, with photos by Rick Leider, it reminds of all the wonders that exist in our backyards and urban spaces. The creatures of this earth are marvellous.