Thursday, December 27, 2012

RECLAIM WONDER! – Some New Years Resolutions

I believe I'm surrounded by wonders great and small, all the time, wherever 
I am.

I understand that many of those miracles lie hidden to first glances.

I will open my spirit to wonder. My eyes, my ears, my heart will follow.

I will make time for awareness, curiosity and wonder.

I will turn off the television, put down the book and start looking, learning and living first-hand.

I will decide for myself what entertains me and, more importantly, what nourishes my soul.

I will notice and celebrate the power of presence.   

I will carefully examine the myth of certainty, and value learning more than knowing.

I will be more aware of the miracle of grace that resides around and within 
every person.

I will shine the light of my own spirit, and will give other people the chance to shine too.

I will try to experience everything as if it were for the first time.

I will approach each day with faith in Nature's instruction, and with gratitude for being Her lifelong pupil.

I will be patient, not just with Nature, but with myself, celebrating small steps in the right direction.

I will seize every opportunity to help a screen-bound child reconnect with Nature. 


Framing example only; frame not included in offer.
Print it out, frame it, or make it the background of your computer desktop.
Give a framed copy to someone you know who's also yearning to reclaim wonder in his/her life.

Thanks for taking the Reclaiming Wonder Pledge! Have a wonder-full day!

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I wish all my visitors and loyal followers from all over the world—72 countries so far—the very best of this season. For us Christians, that means MERRY CHRISTMAS! (para mis hispanohablantes amigos, ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!) For my Jewish friends, it's HAPPY HANUKKAH! For all of us here in the northern hemisphere, it's HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE! 

Whatever your celebration, may these days be kind to you, your families and your loved ones. May they bring you new awareness, wonder and gratitude!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BEAUTY LOST AND FOUND – The Legacy of Tragedy

To my dear friends around the world. I so appreciate your expressions of support—both spoken and unspoken—as we in the USA struggle to make sense
of the unspeakable cruelty in our midst.

Many of us are in mourning, and, coming as it has, during this colder, darker, season when many of us already struggle to embrace the purported joy of the winter holidays, it has hit us all pretty hard.

For me, spontaneous tears well up when I fully sense my oneness with those who’ve lost so much. Most of us are sad; some are angry; others, afraid. Some
just feel a dark malaise. But we all feel something. It hurts.

The world is no less beautiful
a place than it was before Newtown.

While, of course, we all must mourn this in our own ways, I encourage you to let this fact seep in through the cracks in your grief: the world is no less beautiful a place than it was before Newtown.

Seeing that, knowing that, is hard when we feel stuck in a small room where ugliness seems to have sucked out all the air and light.

Certainly, we cannot deny the monster, but we can and must open the windows
and let the fresh air and light of beauty come back in where it ultimately, inevitably belongs…everywhere.

Their wondrous ways of seeing and sensing 
the world are a gift they’ve helped us 
to open, to delight in, to use every day.

Our normal, natural emotions conspire to weigh those windows shut. As we struggle to reclaim our spirits, we must remember that there is only one way to open those windows. Anger, fear, sorrow and despair won't do it; they’re all stuck with us inside that dark room.

The gradual relief of our pain is awfully hard to grasp at a time like this, because the lesson lies in exactly the same place where our grief is focused: in the sweet, innocent eyes of those young children.

One is never too old to see the world like a five- or six-year-old. But it is hard for us because, as adults, we bear the burdens of knowledge, experience and responsibility.

Nonetheless, wouldn’t the greatest honor we could possibly bring to the memory of those beautiful children be to understand that their wondrous ways of seeing and sensing the world are a gift that they’ve helped us to open, to delight in, to use every day?

We must not forget that we all still have those eyes, those eyes of a child. For it is that gift that will not only give us comfort, but ultimately lend us the clarity, the wisdom, the loving spirit and the resolve to make our country a safer, happier, more humane place.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Winter Cabin – Vilhelm von Gegerfelt von Gegerfelt 1844-1920

For four or five months a year, snow, ice, slush and some of the most extreme cold endured by anyone in the continental U.S. conspire to keep us Minnesotans indoors. But if you’re like me, just because you’re confined doesn’t mean your curiosity, your sense of wonder, your appreciation of beauty can just be turned off like the water supply to a frozen pipe.

From summer’s wide-angle view of Nature, winter has us dialing down to a tighter, more selective framing of things. Instead of the near overload your senses might experience at summer’s explosion of life and light, you’re challenged to find and cherish smaller, dearer things. You learn to appreciate—and appreciate learning—things that might not even make the cut on summer’s infinite to-do list.

Inside that dark little chamber a miniature 
electrical storm kicks up as the Orlon interacts 
with your dry hair.

If there’s one thing that loves a Minnesota winter, it’s static electricity. Arctic air, stabbing down from Canada, is already bone dry by the time it gets here. (Witness our chapped lips and the Styrofoam-like crunch of fresh snow delivered by one of our “Alberta clipper” storms.) But indoors, desiccated still further by furnace heat, the air shrivels to desert-like, single-digit relative humidities, cracking hair and skin, parching houseplants, separating furniture and floor joints.

Add to this perfectly conducive medium the tinder of friction between things fluffy and synthetic (like slippers or socks) and natural fibers (like woolen carpet), and you’ll discover one way we northerners stay awake through all those long, housebound evenings.

The sparks are even more fun when observed in the dark or, better still, when released, with their satisfying little snap, on the tender ear lobe of an unsuspecting sibling. Or try turning off all the lights and then peeling off your Orlon pullover. Inside that dark little chamber a miniature electrical storm, complete with high-pitched zaps of thunder, kicks up as the Orlon interacts with your dry hair.

Have you noticed how outdoor summer air teems with particulate matter: dust, pollen, mold spores and who knows what else? Indoor winter air, barring expensive filters, is every bit as richly seasoned, albeit with different “spices.” What it lacks in pollen it makes up for in dander from humans and pets. The dust and mold are there too, just different kinds.

To see for yourself how much solid material lurks in household air just study a shaft of sunlight, a flashlight beam or the glow of your bedside reading lamp. (This works especially well when the rest of the room’s dark.) If what you see doesn’t alarm you, it will, at least, make you appreciate how well the nose and the rest of the respiratory system manages to filter out all this junk.

For our animal fix, we turn to the certainty 
of specimens we shape to our convenience.

Could there be a more elegant artistic expression than the crystalline masterpieces Nature renders with water?

Outdoors, of course, it’s snow. Whether you perceive it as flake or drift, it’s the most sublime of sculptures. Indoors, relegated to the two-dimensional “canvas” of frozen glass, she once again outdoes herself. One appreciates the brushwork of strokes and patterns; marvels at the feathered crystalline detail; imagines how the artist determined where each element would go.


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 a tree, shrub or flower in its natural, wild setting, we devise ways to shrink it, capture it and confine it in pots that clamber close to windows.

For our animal fix, we turn from the chancy thrill of spotting critters in their own realm and on their own terms, to the certainty of specimens we shape to our convenience, bred to need no more than our care and attention.

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

Within our own minds—and those of people we care about—lie at least as many layers, twists and turns of discovery as there are in Nature’s outer realm. Our winter proximity to other human beings, whether it’s being sealed inside a vehicle or huddled around a hearth, encourages conversation, rewards patience and understanding.


It rewards self-discovery too, for turning our attention inward, in reflection, reverie or meditation, can show us the way toward becoming more loving—of others and ourselves.

Our taste for transcendent thought, that yearning for chances to glimpse the unfathomable, knows no season. But in winter, when we’re stuck inside so much of the time, often in close quarters, finding a quiet space and some time of our own can be challenging.

When we can find a way, though, the benefits will likely outweigh those of all the breezy tips I’ve noted above. For once you’ve found your spiritual wings, not even the cruelest Minnesota winter can confine you.

When your interest in firsthand observation has run its course, what better time than a long, bone-chilling winter evening to turn to vicarious discovery. Turn on the tube. Try to avoid stepping in TV’s notion of “reality,” and find one of the many excellent nature and outdoor adventure programs.

Fly off around the cyber-world on the Internet, or, better yet, turn off everything but your mind and journey into the boundless world of imagination and wonder to be found in a good book. Get lost in a gardening catalog or website; build a model; collect something; plan a party. Or, if none of these virtual escapes quite satisfies your itch, book your dream vacation…and get out of there for real!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


How does snow do this—pile five inches deep on a quarter inch branch?

Snowflakes settle so gently down—can you imagine sprinkling anything so softly?

Then they hook their fine, crystalline arms, defying gravity and a nudge of breeze. 

It all reminds me why we northerners put up with winter.

Monday, December 3, 2012

BUBBLES – As If For the First Time

(This is the latest in my series of reflections, As If For the First Time,
describing the most commonplace of experiences through a fresh lens,
one of innocence and wonder.)

When I was a kid, I loved to play with the Prell shampoo. The clear, emerald-green stuff came in a transparent tube. I adored the depth of that color. More than that, I loved the pocket of air. When I turned the tube upside down it would start rising slowly through the honey-thick goo, taking on the typical globular shape of a bubble—but with one difference: because the medium was so thick, its trailing edge was drawn out into a point, like a water drop just before it breaks free, only inverted.

How amazing, I thought, that Prell could make not just the wispy, ephemeral bubbles we expect from soap, but these thick, plodding, ponderable
ones too.

I also remember staring into my dad's beer glass, transfixed by those little strings of bubbles that appeared out of nowhere and danced around through the amber. I'm still fascinated. - Used with permission

Is there any one of Nature's little wonders more sublime than a bubble? Think of the soapy kind kids blow with those little plastic wands. Like sheer 3-D kaleidoscopes, their colors shimmer and flow. And have you ever made a really big bubble hoop out of rope or a coat hanger? Once you figure out how to get the right amount and rate of air to balloon the soapy film without breaking it, you can produce bubbles so big they undulate as they drift away, writhing to find their roundness. can produce bubbles so big they undulate as they drift away, writhing to find their roundness. 

Not all bubbles are so whimsical; just ask divers. If they ascend too fast, the nitrogen dissolved in their blood can bubble up just like the carbon dioxide in a quickly uncapped bottle of soda.

I'm visited by an uncomfortable little bubble every once in a while. I don't know where it comes from, but it feels like a tiny holdout from a burp, a bubble that finds its way into some little nook in my chest, where it presses on something that doesn't appreciate it. It used to scare me—I thought I was having a heart attack—but now I just wait until it eventually finds its way out the way it was headed in the first place.

Bubbles have a sneaky side too. Nestle knew it 
back in 1938...

Think of all the bubbles we just take for granted. Bread—yes, how do you think it gets that texture? Foam rubber. A wine glass. Rice Crispies. There are even bubbles so small we can't see them. Paints and plastics, as well as lots of other materials, contain millions of microscopic glass bubbles added to extend volume, reduce weight, add strength, resist abrasion and improve flow quality. Bubbles are used in inkjet printing, mining, environmental engineering, medicine, oil production, food science and any number of other industries.

Bubbles have a sneaky side too. Nestle knew it back in 1938 when they figured out a way to provide less actual chocolate in their bars than it appeared by adding puffed crisps—essentially bubbles—to the mix. And now, alas, Hershey has pulled an even more devious trick with their Air Delight chocolate bar, somehow making it sound like you're getting more, not less.

Hombre Viendo al Cielo - Fernando Garrido 2005

My friend, the fine contemporary Mexican painter, Fernando Garrido, uses bubbles as a sort of signature element in his eccentric, magical-realist portrayals of warriors, sages, alchemists, oracles and mystics. The bubbles emerge, in astounding, dripping detail, from the characters’ mouths, through vents in their outlandish headdresses, and sometimes, like those little beer bubbles, from no apparent source. Catching reflections of neon lights or an always-unseen sun, they float through Garrido's scenes, reminding us of the tenuous balance between life's shimmering fullness and its utter impermanence.

How and where do you see bubbles?

"A soap bubble is the most beautiful, most exquisite thing in nature. I wonder how much it would cost to buy a soap bubble, if there were only one in the world?"