Have we lost the art of wonder?

wonder. N. a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar.

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Even before the anklebiters (and perhaps more so now that they’re here), I have tried to relish in the serendipity of the everyday. The chance to see or experience how the world unfolds in the great outdoors. Both manmade and natural. Framing the world through these eyes has more than once urged others to see the world anew. “You see things differently.” Sure, it started in childhood because how could we not be impressed with water flowing from the sink or wind rustling through the trees or the tickling softness of a brown black caterpillar about to feast on the strawberry reserved for mum’s special treat? Somewhere along the line, boys and pop music and jolly ranchers obscured the vision but added alternative bouts of wonder. But an eighth grade English teacher re-invigorated these eyes, asking to scribble thoughts in a weeklong exercise of observation. And observe I did. The skies opened up with sherbet surprises announcing dusk. Silhouettes of Joshua trees square-danced in the moonlight. I remembered to look up and out and I haven’t stopped. I’ve been lucky. I haven’t lost the art of wonder.

This week’s book is the graphic corollary to my research. Children are experiential beings; they interact with the stimulus around them. Walking is just not walking it is truly the art of wonder. Sidewalk Flowers (or here abroad known as Footpath Flowers) written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith visually entertains such ideas. It is a graphic novella sans words and follows the neighbourhood escapade of a father and daughter. Daughter is enrobed in a red hooded jumper that contrasts with the black and white depictions of the neighbourhood. As Father and Daughter traverse the footpath, passing busstops, shopfronts, park benches, the scenery starts blooming. Colours slowly filter in as Daughter gathers flowers during the jaunt and redistributes such gems. Unbiased kindness as Daughter touches physically and metaphorically the lives she encounters all whilst Father projects an oblivious air as adults often do.

Ankle biter 1 sat through a reading. He didn’t seem impressed Although he did like the canine cameo. “Will he eat (the flowers)? Or is he saving them for later?” Without spoiling too much, he did have questions about the distribution of Daughter’s flowers in the park. I think this one is more for adults or older children than anklebiters. I enjoyed it immensely for all my ranting above. Being surrounded by children and seeing what they are seeing- truly, I cannot help but be immersed in wonder. Truth be told, you don’t need children to be amazed with what’s around you. Get out of your car and open your senses. Skill yourself in this art of wonder because it really isn’t lost it’s just unused.

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Loose parts

“A castle, made of cartons, rocks, and old branches, by a group of children for themselves, is worth a thousand perfectly detailed, exactly finished castles, made for them in a factory.”

-Christopher Alexander, A pattern language

pocketed items

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childhood treasures

Ah bless.

Childhood is a wondrous stage of wide-eyed wonder, sticky fingers and exhausted sticks. As parents, we are blessed to have a second childhood experiencing the nuances of sensation; of cause and effect; of simply existing. I adore that Ankle biter 2 never tires of peek a boo. Ankle biter 1 is all about harbouring an assortment of things found in his pockets. The photo above is a sampling of things Ankle biter 1 picked up on our walk home. “Save this for later please.” What happens later?

Childhood is really about patience. (I had to write that to remind myself. Earlier this week I discovered a family of rocks in the washing machine. Um yea, pockets.) Patience with exploring and experiencing the world. At least there’s not a pocketed dead mouse. Yet.

Whistle while you work

Ankle Biter 1 attends daycare in the mornings. Dad cycles him en route to his work. At least once a week Ankle Biter 1 proclaims proudly , “I’m going to work.” Adults may scoff and placate by thinking, “how cute.” But really, play is work for children. Somewhere along the way, we as adults have forgotten the importance of work: maintaining our sustenance in the fullest sense. If you take ‘work’ from the perspective of a child, it is explorative and frustrating, cacophony and symphony, intense and joyful. Even in the resting, it is productive. Play is work and work should be play. Goodness, Peter Pan was on to something.

Anyways, with this little soap box rant, I bring you this week’s book, Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats. The endearing protagonist, Peter, spies a dog running to another boy after a whistle. This spectacle prompts Peter to begin his best efforts at whistling. Despite his trials, no whistle emerges. In the interim, he plays outside, in boxes, with chalk, skipping on cracks and jumping on shadows. After all of this ‘work’ he sees his dog Willie and hides in a box. Triumphantly, Peter whistles and Willie follows. Peter returns home to share his new found talent. Pleased as peaches, his mum then asks him to whistle all the way to the grocery store for some goods. He does so, happily and with Willie by his side.

Ankle biter 1 likes the story because of the chalk drawings. “Look, he’s drawing, why isn’t he using orange?” Both ankle biters like to hear me whistle and they in turn try to imitate. They have yet to plead for a canine. I enjoy the story for the great independence that Peter demonstrates whilst walking. Even today, when children walk (if allowed to do so), they experience their surroundings in the most physical and engaging way. A type of ‘work’ that everyone should encourage.