Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A Simple Guide to the Wisdom of Wonder

Order one for 
yourself and a
few to give!
A lovely meditation on what makes life worth living.
RICHARD LOUV, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle 
A welcome invitation to see the world through new eyes.
MARTI ERICKSON, cofounder, Children & Nature Network; cohost,
Warmhearted, wise, uplifting—simply enchanting!
ROBIN EASTON, author of Naked in Eden: My Adventures and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest
Inspires us to keep our childlike wonder alive.
ANN BANCROFT, polar explorer, teacher and author
Nourishes the soul. 
MEG PIER, travel writer, photographer,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Do you remember how it felt when, as a child,
you first discovered some little creature or flower
you’d never seen before and when, moved beyond
speech, all you could manage was a breathless wow?

That little whisper, that crystalline moment of pure
wonder, is what Under the Wild Ginger is about.

You can reclaim the magical in your hectic life. You’ll learn how to open both your senses and your spirit to your surroundings, how to notice and celebrate the countless small miracles that await, often right under your nose.


A guidebook to journeys of wonder 
with children and grandchildren

The book introduces the concept of seeing generously. It suggests that, while sensing may seem a kind of acquisition, it’s really as much about giving as taking—letting go agendas and schedules; surrendering cell phones and computers; committing your time; applying your imagination; and, above all, simply paying attention.

Giving something of yourself to the process of perception restores the curiosity and joie de vivre each of us possessed naturally as a child but which got buried in layer upon layer of adult structure, stress, and cynicism.

Under the Wild Ginger is a book to enjoy in quiet moments by yourself, to give to kindred spirits, and, perhaps most importantly, to share with your children and grandchildren as a guidebook to journeys of wonder you’ll undertake together.


Monday, October 28, 2013

GINKGO – Living Fossil, Esthetic Wonder

I first came to appreciate ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) trees about 20 years ago when I was collecting fallen autumn leaves for a craft project. I was using pressed leaves to create gorgeous lampshades. Since I placed them not just as scattered elements on the shades, but as a solid field of color and texture, I had to factor into my designs how the leaves’ shapes worked when repeated in a continuous pattern.

Most challenging were the highly irregular, lobed leaves like oak and maple; it was nearly impossible to lap one over the next without leaving voids here and there. Considerably easier were the more-or-less round or oval ones, which overlapped in neat lens shapes. And loveliest of all were the ginkgo leaves. Their elegant fan shapes dovetailed nicely in a beautiful, saffron yellow fish-scale pattern.

             I kept looking around for the pasty-
             faced kid who’d just blown lunch. 

Shape and color weren’t the only advantages of ginkgo leaves. Their flat surface was also far easier to glue down to the shade’s styrene substrate than most leaves, whose prominent veins interfere.

Of course, gaining this kind of intimacy with ginkgo leaves soon made me more aware of the tree than ever. I began looking for them and noticing other wonderful qualities of this ancient, unique species. (Among the oldest of all trees, its leaves are nearly identical to fossilized specimens dating back 270 million years. With no close relatives, ginkgo biloba is the sole survivor of its family.)

Sitting on a bench outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first home in Oak Park, Illinois, I was nearly overcome by the smell of vomit. I kept looking around for the pasty faced kid who’d just blown lunch.

Seeing no one looking the slightest bit queasy, I looked down and noticed the brownish-yellow, grape-sized fruit (technically seeds) that had fallen from the big old ginkgo tree spreading over us. I reached down and picked up one that had been partially squashed under someone’s foot and smelled it. E-e-e-w! That was it all right. (Turns out ginkgo fruit is full of butyric acid, the same substance released when butter goes rancid.)

   In China, where it is the national tree, ginkgo 
   is revered as a symbol of longevity and vitality.

Later that fall, I noticed that nearly all the trees the city of Minneapolis has planted along some blocks to replace the decimated American elm are ginkgoes. As I collected the most perfect of their leaves for my lampshades, I noticed that one or two of the trees on each block was dropping fruit.

Come to learn that there are male and female ginkgo trees, and that, while city foresters try to plant just the non-fruiting males, apparently distinguishing between them is not easy. So I always watch my step in late summer and fall.

Another unique property of ginkgo biloba is the way it branches—or should I say doesn’t branch. Just as the leaves lack the continuously-branching vein network of other leaves, so the branches seem to spurn the sequential branching so common in other trees. Most of ginkgo’s branches depart from the trunk and simply reach straight out, sprouting nothing but leaves to the very tip.

Ginkgo biloba is well known for its purported medicinal qualities. In China, where it is the national tree, ginkgo is revered as a symbol of longevity and vitality. It is used there and around the world to treat respiratory issues, incontinence, indigestion, intestinal worms, gonorrhea, poor circulation, depression, dementia and inner ear problems, among other ailments.

While some studies have supported its effectiveness, many have debunked it. So I suppose one could say that, at the very least, it is as good a placebo as any other. And, since I depend on ginkgo for nothing more than its considerable esthetic qualities, I can say that, in that regard, its potency is undisputed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SEEING GENEROUSLY – What Goes Around...

At first glance, vision may seem like a simple one-way transaction. We open our eyes. An image goes in and gets processed by the mind. If it's something important, it may move us to feel or do something, or it gets stored somewhere for future reference.

In fact, it's easy to think of all our senses like that—merely taking in sensations. But it doesn't have to be that way. Consider touch. I mean we generally see, hear, taste or smell anonymously—without any involvement of the thing we're sensing.

But when we touch something, it always, automatically, touches us back. Until recently, I thought touch was the only one of our conventional senses that could
do that.

As soon as you begin to let go of objectives and schedules, turn off the cell phone and truly notice, something begins to change. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if seeing were more like touch? It's hard to imagine, because we've gotten complacent in our seeing. We expect to find our images delivered effortlessly to us on screens, often while sitting alone or at least in our own little worlds. With virtually no contact with the actual things depicted on the screen, it's kind of a sad exercise in anonymity.

This consumption mentality of seeing affects even the way we perceive real stuff. For example, we seem to prefer looking at things we already know. Like so many TV re-runs, their familiarity soothes us, keeps us company, actually turns off our minds. Nothing's really new. We give nothing, we invest nothing and, one could argue, we get nothing.

So what is seeing generously? What does it look like?

Is our seeing all it can be?

It may happen unconsciously. Let's say you're looking at something—an animal, a sunset, another person. If, at that moment, your mind has its foot on your spirit, you won't be especially moved. But as soon as you begin to let go of objectives and schedules, turn of the cell phone and truly notice, something begins to change.

When we see things in this way, we grow, our consciousness grows and the world becomes a more mindful, loving place.

At first, it may be just small increments of investment, feelings like appreciation or satisfaction. That's okay; it's a start. But then, if you can allow yourself to be curious, the way you were naturally when you were a child, the transaction starts to truly transform. Now your seeing's become a gift, not just to yourself, but to the person or thing you're curious about.

When we see things in this way—not just with our eyes, or even our mind, but with our heart and our spirit—we grow, our consciousness grows and the world becomes a more mindful, loving place.

Have you ever noticed the way a person lights up when the conversation turns from the typical self-promoting, cocktail party chatter to genuine interest in something that really matters to that person? You know, when "Me, me, me…well, enough about me. What do you think about me?" turns to "What about you?"

When we see someone that way—or when we wonder at one of Nature's miracles—that's a blessing we give to that person, that creature or that thing.

That is how seeing generously looks and sounds. Seem familiar? It should; any five-year-old can do it. And that's the point. You already possess this gift. All you have to do is dig it out, wrap it in joy and give it away.

Do you see generously? We'd love to hear about your ideas and experiences!

Friday, October 18, 2013

100,000 PAGE VIEWS – A World of Wonder

When I first moved into this cyber-neighborhood a few years ago, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I was pretty skeptical as to how effective this blogging platform could be for what I had to say. I also had serious doubts as to whether one could really form any kind of meaningful relationships through the exchange of "follows," "likes" and "retweets."

Those first few weeks, it seemed I checked my stats almost hourly. I'd get excited if I'd had five or ten page views. And I was blown away when the occasional visitor from another country showed up.

And why have I been getting thousands of visits 
from folks in the Ukraine, of all places?

Well, this afternoon I logged my 100,000th page view. Now I realize that, for a top blogger, that's about the number of views you might expect in a day or two, but to me it's huge. It shows me that what I've been trying to do here at One Man's Wonder has at least been getting out there, and I figure that even these modest numbers suggest folks have been liking and sharing my content with others.

And I've now had visitors from 72 countries. For some reason, this strikes me as even more amazing than the page views. Maybe it's the intrigue—wondering what kind of person each new tick represents, imagining the perils they might encounter for subscribing to the free expression of ideas in countries like China or Iran. And why have I been getting thousands of visits from folks in the Ukraine, of all places?

Well, I guess it's kind of like flying for me. I know there are good solid reasons why it works. Still, no matter how often I do it, I just sit here like an awestruck kid, thinking it's nothing less than a miracle.

It's not about the numbers; it's about the dialog, 
the relationships you make, how you're affecting 
your readers.

At the same time that I celebrate this little milestone, I must keep in mind what the wisest and most experienced bloggers have told me: it's not about the numbers; it's about the dialog, the relationships you make, how you're affecting your readers.

I've realized for myself the validity of this advice, often succumbing to the seductiveness of the numbers only to have that temporary burst of energy and confidence fall off like the rush of a cheap drug. What truly energizes me—and keeps me energized—is the writing and the responses of readers who find it interesting and inspiring.

So I'll keep denying my admitted need for affirmation and keep my focus where it belongs. Among my goals for the coming months:
  • to post consistently high-quality content that you find worthy not only of subscribing to, but of sharing with like-minded folks;
  • to find more and better ways of participating in the growing movement to rescue and restore our (especially children's) natural affinity with Nature;
  • to get outside the comfortable role of preachin' to the choir, and find new audiences who may not yet know how much a part of their souls Nature and wonder are.
  • to elicit more of your comments (I've always intended this to be a dialog, not a soliloquy) and
  • to continue broadening and strengthening my connections with other bloggers.

Many thanks to all who've visited One Man's Wonder, those who've taken the time to comment, my faithful RSS-feed subscribers, and to those who've shared, liked and tweeted about OMW.

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who, as a rule, have proven to be kind, generous and supportive. So many of you have mentioned or shared my posts with your followers, offered suggestions, posed challenging questions, and/or agreed to share my work as guest posts at your sites.

Thanks, too, to those who've been kind enough to review or mention my book, Under the Wild Ginger – A Simple Guide to the Wisdom of Wonder: Stacey Mathews, blogger, outdoorswoman and epic hiker, Patricia Hamilton of Patricia's Wisdom, William Ricci of Stone Path Review and Cassandra Herbert of Just Bee Wellness. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.

My friends, your encouragement and support has been a great blessing, often coming, miraculously, at just those times when I most needed a pat on the back. THANK YOU!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

HOW TO BE IN THE MOMENT – 101 Little Tips

 TIP #23
Hold things up to the light.

PHOTO: Steve Jurvetson

Leaf, fish scale, agate, maple seed. All have inner beauty—veins, cells, grains, layers, colors—revealed only in their translucence.

Let the sun or your own illumination be your x-ray, curiosity your power...and see deeply.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

THE SHAPE OF WIND – Currents of Life and Wonder

The other day, as I was driving to my new studio, I stopped at an intersection I've traversed a hundred times. As I waited for the light to turn I noticed—as is my compulsion—something I'd never seen in the same way before.

     I noticed…the way the fluid undulations of 
     foliage lent shape and sequence to the wind.

There were the same trees, the same shrubs and tall grasses that were there last week and last year. No strangers to me their forms and textures. I'd watched them unfurl and wither, get trimmed back now and then by whoever cares about such things, and faithfully adorn each season in its accustomed colors.

But what I noticed most that day was their motion, the way the fluid undulations of foliage animated each plant’s existence and at the same time lent shape and sequence to the wind.

PHOTO: Russ Seidel

Wind is one of those wonders of Nature you don't have to directly see, hear, smell or even feel to know it's there. You can be locked inside the best insulated of buildings and, with just a glance out the window, you still know when it’s there. Like a river's invisible current swaying a half-submerged branch, breeze can reveal itself merely by what it does to other things.

Perhaps the river analogy is good one, for that rolling motion of green, the way the flowing air alternately pushed and plucked at those living forms, made it look like the whole thicket could have been underwater.

         Like the wind, your presence here is 
         invisible unless you do something.

Do you feel, as I do, that we can see ourselves in Nature? In the wind’s tousling of foliage, would you be the wind or the foliage?

How do you sense small wonders you can’t really see? Couldn’t we apply this notion of indirect sensing to ourselves and our relationships—perhaps better knowing our own qualities by the effects they have on others?

And speaking of elusive presence, I try very hard to put up content here on One Man’s Wonder that will interest and inspire you, encourage you to see the world afresh. Yet only something like one percent of you ever leave any trace of your presence here.

C’mon folks, let me know my musings are having the desired effect (or not). Leave a comment. Share this on Facebook or Twitter. Let other anonymous readers know you're all part of a sizable movement to reclaim awareness, curiosity and wonder in this sped-up, dumbed-down, us-versus-them world.

Remember, like the wind, your presence here is invisible unless you do something. Let us feel your wind!