Monday, January 31, 2011

HUNKERED DOWN – Bringing Wonder Home

It's the depth of winter here in Minnesota. Not to worry; we're hearty souls. Generally, we don't let that stop us from enjoying life, even life outdoors—which, by the way, is still full of great beauty and life.

        A person's need for discovery and wonder 
        doesn't get left at the door like the parka 
        and boots.

Nonetheless, below zero wind chills conspire with the sun's quitting at 4:30 to make us spend far more time cooped up inside than we do in the summer. Sometimes we have no choice but to hunker down for a couple of days and wait out a blizzard and the arctic deep freeze that so often follows.

But a person's need for discovery and wonder doesn't get left at the door like the parka and boots. Even indoors we're curious; our child side still needs to play, learn and experience delight.

Of course, there's always TV, a good book or the Internet to help pass the long, dark hours. But these, I submit, are remote, second-hand experiences. They may entertain or inform us, but do they nourish a curious soul?

Even indoors I'm always surprised and delighted at how many real-life, present-moment natural wonders await discovery when I'm willing to look with care. Here are just a few examples:

      Study the strokes and patterns; marvel 
      at the feathered crystalline brushwork; 
      imagine how the artist determined where 
      each element in the composition would go.

Could there be a more elegant artistic expression than the crystalline masterpieces Nature renders with water? Outdoors, of course, it’s snow; whether seen as flake or drift, it's the most sublime of sculptures. Indoors, though, relegated to the two-dimensional “canvas” of frozen glass, she once again outdoes herself.

Look closely at frost; study the strokes and patterns; marvel at the feathered crystalline brushwork; imagine how the artist determined where each element in the composition would go. Touch it; see how ephemeral it is. See if you can melt it without quite touching it.

Perhaps the one thing that changes most when our world moves indoors is our appreciation of things that live and grow. Instead of marveling at trees, shrubs or flowers in their natural, wild setting, we devise ways to shrink, capture and confine them in pots that clamber close to windows. Try not to take them for granted. These plants, for their staunch, surrogate duty, are all the more worthy of our notice.

For our indoor animal fix, we turn from summer's chancy thrill of spotting critters in their own realms and on their own terms to the certainty of specimens we've shaped to our convenience, bred to need no more than our care and attention. Take advantage of these most opportune occasions to relish your closeness to these dear creatures.

    The subtle white, comet-tail streaks suggest the 
    seeds have streaked out from center. And there 
    they’ve landed, on the vivid, glossy surface of 
    the fruit, each cupped in its own tiny crater. 

Instead of discovering a strange new fruit or nut on a wild plant somewhere in the woods, we learn in winter to explore things closer at hand, perhaps things so common we never thought to look at them with wonder. For example, have you stopped to appreciate the elegance of line, color, form and texture in a freshly sliced strawberry?

See how the flesh morphs from furry, white, womb-like core into sweet, solid crimson. Note the subtle white, comet-tail streaks that suggest the seeds have streaked out from center. And there they’ve landed, on the vivid, glossy surface of the fruit, each cupped in its own tiny crater.

Would you agree that discovery and wonder need not be lost on the home-bound? See if you can find "wild" living critters like meal worms, spiders or perhaps the occasional holdover ladybug. See what you can discover about another person. Play with soap bubbles or static electricity. Explore the attic. Cook something. Try to...ah-h-h...wait a second...whoa-a-a!...I'm sorry, I have a fire going in the fireplace, and there's this...amazing bright blue...tongue of flame…


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