Saturday, December 04, 2010

December 4: Wonder =Jenga

December 4 – Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
Author: Jeffrey Davis (This is the Reverb 10 project I'm doing for December, join the fun here.)

I did a dorky thing just now. I googled the definition of the word "wonder" to make sure I was thinking of it correctly. Cultivating a sense of astonishment, awe, surprise or admiration. A marvel. And the more that I sit here contemplating on that word, I realize that as a thirty five year old, analytical, pragmatic book nerd with a dry sense of humor and a heavy dose of skepticism about nearly everything in the world, wonder comes surprisingly easily to me. I find wonder, not in the I believe in fairies or Santa Claus kind of wonder, but wonder in the beauty, creative talent, diversity and passion of people all around me. And wonder tends to pop out constantly when I spend time with kids.

Jolie and Miss Crystal Claus

Joe and I don't have kids yet, but we are lucky enough to have lots of kids in our lives anyway. Our nephews, Connor and Jackson, lots of friends' children to whom we are Uncle Joe and Aunt Kassie, and then last weekend when we went to Omaha for Thanksgiving, we got to hang out with Jolie, that blond adorable seven year old holding the dog in a Mrs. Claus dress up there. Jolie is Joe's step brother Dave's girlfriend, Lynae's daughter, yeah, that's convoluted. And while we always have a great time up in Omaha, lots of activity and people to hang out with, it was an especially enjoyable trip this time because I made a new friend.

Turkey Trot Participants, Mac in the lead

Jolie is outgoing, funny, only moderately whiny for a seven year old, and smart. We hung out off and on all weekend. And she made even just the basic things that I take for granted more fun. And that's where the wonder comes in. Jolie greeted us when we arrived in Omaha with hot tea in tiny tin Scotty tea cups. She was so excited, giddy really, to serve us the hot tea in her little tea set. A great hostess, she kept asking us if we needed more tea, and turning over the little cups to show us all the different decorations and pictures all over the cup and saucer. It was just tea. But it tasted better some how, served by a smiling seven year old.

Chicago Jonny - "Cold, this isn't cold."

 The weekend was filled with things like that and I wasn't the only one feeling it. I think everyone had more fun because we were seeing the holiday like seven year olds, at least a little bit. Because it's all new to her. That's the thing about wonder, I find more wonder in new things, things I haven't seen or experienced before, and those things get harder to find as you get older. You have to work harder to find the wonder. It's not on the underside of a tea cup, or in the goofy turkey shaped gravy boat, or hidden under a hat you borrowed from some friendly thirty five year old lady because it was cold outside on your walk. You've done and seen all these things already, but she hasn't. She helped me set the table, put out the turkey napkin rings and layout the silverware. It's new and fresh to her, and there's something to marvel at there.  Looking at the world with a newness and a brightness that shines up even the basic everyday things. Christmas lights, cooking, playing with the dogs, they each seemed a little more interesting with Jolie running around shouting and laughing.

On the dock in my hat

We all took a very cold walk around, well partly around, the lake at Joe's parents house. It was incredibly windy and cold, but sunny and fresh. We walked out on the dock to look at the geese and ducks, Jolie pulled her hat down covering her entire face because it was so cold, and just trusted that we would make sure she didn't walk into traffic on our walk back. That's the dangerous side of wonder I guess, that newness and awe at the world is often partnered with a naivete. That innocent freedom of trusting the people around you to take care of you, of not yet knowing how badly the world can hurt you. Closing your eyes and just trusting that it all works out. And that is the side that I don't miss as an adult. I am independent and aware, and can generally take care of myself. My eyes are open, I've been hurt, I know what can happen if you close your eyes and walk into traffic. My awe is still intact, wonder is still there, but it's balanced by experience and knowledge. Thank god.

Me and babushkaMr. Sands

Setting up

Marshmallows help with wonder, I've decided. They are strange and small and fluffy and turn into something entirely different when cooked well. And sweet potatoes, according to my sous chef Jolie, need to be coated in a very thick layer of marshmallows. Very thick.

Post it from inside the gravy boat


Get in my belly.Dave and Lynae

Disaffected rock youth

Mother and Daughter Turquoise

And games, games are good for growing wonder. Particularly the intensity and chaos that is Jenga. I think the last time I played it was ten years ago at a drunken girls' night slumber party, where we somehow turned Jenga into a contact sport. We played a lot of games of Jenga over Thanksgiving. Jolie and I made some incredibly high towers, the rest of the Thanksgiving attendees sat back and watched our prowess, and when that last fateful move, the move that looked low risk but turned out to be the death knell for our spindly tower, sent the careening rocking pillar crashing down, we both were always amazed.

NO!Oh, man.

I think kids are the default wonder enhancer for most people. But visual art is the other thing that always amazes me, leaving me with my mouth open and my eyes gleaming at the creativity and ingenuity that can pour out of those lucky artists. This staggering, colorful, glowing beauty below is on the second floor of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha. It's a blown glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly, or really multiple sculptures attached to a huge 33 foot tall frame. It is immense. It is textured and writhing and I could stare at it all day. I feel like I'm underwater when I gaze at it.

HDR Chihuly by Joe

Joslyn UpstairsJoslyn Mosaic FountainJoslyn Halls

There is no place that I find wonder more quickly than wandering around the halls of a museum. The art, the varied visitors, the quiet, the color, and the amazing variety of styles, media and ideas that people use to express themselves, their fears and dreams and desires. As long as I have access to places filled with art, I'll always be able to tap into my own sense of wonder. It's always just right there waiting for me. My eyes wide open, taking it all in.

What do you marvel at? What still takes your breath away as an adult? Or are you too cool for that kind of thing now? I hope not.

(Most photos by Joe Sands, except the first one and last three, which are courtesy of my iPhone.)

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Awesome post Kassie!! I think you hit my idea of wonder right on the head. Seeing things through kids eyes can be magical that is for sure!!