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.


Mischief in the street

Toucan stripes.


Zebra crossing. Call it what you will but those painted lines pretend to demarcate areas of safety for those afoot. Pretend because those lines act as drag strip race starting and finishing lines where drivers think pedestrians mere spectators. And spectators we are until we start to change our mindset about how we use and share our streets. Sorry automobiles, the time of your reign is over. Streets are for people. Way back when, The City Repair Project started cultivating community with the Sunnyside Piazza pictured below. Like Hans Moderman, Ben Hamilton-Baillie and David Engwitch, we should envision a new way to cross, walk, run, hop along our streets.

Streets made for people * theurbanimagined.wordpress.com

Cue this week’s short story, Lofty’s jungle fun taken from the Bob the Builder Annual 2005. For those of you uninitiated, Lofty is a blue crane truck (sometimes with wrecking ball) and part of Bob the Builder’s construction crew (with the likes of Scoop the digger, Muck the bulldozer). With two avid construction equipment ankle biter aficionados, it was only a matter of time that I’d mention Bob. I’m not quite sure why Lofty gets top billing as it is Spud, the scarecrow who steals the show, literally and figuratively in this story. A school mural is being painted by Molly. Vertically challenged, she Romper Rooms**some paint tins to use as stilts to finish the top edge of the mural. Spud absconds with the romper stompers stepping in paint along the way. He runs across town and leaves polka dotted trails especially over the new road crossing. His escapades finally end when he is hooked by Lofty. Spud is then required to clean up his mischief in the public realm.

Ankle biter 1 loves his Bob the Builder. Incidentally he broke out into the theme song during a premeditated silent stint in a publicly crowded place. He absorbs his two Bob annuals. Although there is no excavator in the crew, he eyeball-drying focuses on each adventure. So no brainer he loves the short story. I adore the story twofold. One, murals. Nothing like a little colour on the wall to enliven a space. Better yet if Molly invited the children to paint along- at least handprints-. Two, it hinted at the possibility of shared streets. Although I don’t like the fact that Spud was made to clean up his mess. Those polka dots may very well slow down traffic. Zebra crossings and footpaths should be made more colourful, more user-friendly. Place it on the radar of both perambulators and motorists.  Take a cue from Jody Xiong who created a green pedestrian crosswalk. Not only a statement on environmental responsibility but a visually arresting shared space. Next time you walk across the lines, think how the space might be altered with colour.

Jody Xiong creates a visual shared space *theurbanimagine.wordpress.com

**Yea, I may have dated myself. But back in the days I remember watching Romper Room. Boy, did I want to drive in those cardboard box fire engines!!! And because my parents weren’t suckers to advertising, I made do with my own romper stompers sans cans. More like walking strings. Ahhh childhood.

Images taken from Sunnyside Piazza — The City Repair Project, author’s photos of Bob the Builder and Green Pedestrian Crossing in China Creates Leaves from Footprints | Colossal

A mindful saunter


Here and now.

An awareness of the full stop.

Mindfulness is hard.

How do you find the breath when both anklebiters are screaming (one indignant at being asked to pick up his blankie and the other hungry because dinner is delayed due to aforementioned indignation). The first time, Sure, easy. But come the bewitching hour no-one sees straight. I guess I could laugh. It’s a new year and I’m trying to find my way.

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Someone recently recommended Thich Nhat Hanh’s A Handful of Quiet:Happiness in Four Pebbles. In the back of my head, my friend keeps saying,The Here is NOW.”  Mindfulness is being introduced in UK schools as part of  adolescent mental skills trainingCollectively, I am being told to SLOW dooooowwwnnn.

Enter the mindful saunter. Each week the ankle biters and I take a stroll in the hood. Our favourite thing to do is play “what’s that noise.” Which in some way is a practice of mindfulness- which is rather manifested naturally in the beauty of children’s curiosity. To take pause, each week, I’ll share the noises we hear but extend it to include all senses. Mindfulness is full awareness.

What we heard: brmmp brmmp brmmp of the little orange digger

What we tasted: the sweet and tangy of an early hot cross bun sweetly and freely presented by a lady on the bus

What we smelled: The dampness of the moss along the rocky ledges

What we touched: The icy cold layer on the shallow puddle

What we saw: The cherished green leaf

Walk this way

A rare photograph taken during the shoot for the Abbey Road cover shows the Beatles walking back across the road, from right to left.

Source: Photo of The Beatles walking back across Abbey Road to be auctioned – Telegraph

It dawned on me the moment we arrived. At the beginning of the year, we moved our family from radiant, familiar Australia to gelid, obscure England. I craved just a tiny sliver of normalcy at a time when I had little control of things in my life.  All I wanted to do was walk on the left. Access, denied. Pedestrians of Yorkshire, you irk me (even more so than the dampness). Your indecision to choose a side upon which to walk creates grim murmurs poised to shoot arrows from my lips.

You drive on the left. You should walk on the left.

Sure you may try to assert your multi-cultural, multi-generational stance. But seriously, people in California walk on the right (when they are out sans car generally along the beach). They drive on the right. They walk on the right. People in Sydney drive on the left. That’s actually where I learned that there was a natural order and flow of things. After bumping unlucky heads and unsuspecting arms, I realised they swim on the left (sorry my medium, sometimes slow lane peeps). Drive on the left, swim on the left, walk on the left. Done and done.

Sure George, John, Paul and Ringo walk in the centre (as depicted above). But you ain’t the Beatles and you drive on the left. Stroll along on the left. Pass on the right. Don’t make me swerve my pram left and right just to avoid your confusion. Please. Just walk this way.

A video and five links to start the weekend

Talk about random acts of kindness. We are loved, Agustina Woodgate.

Let’s walk. Australia installs the first glow in the dark footpath.

Create civic life. Help some community initiatives or start your own.

What creates cherished public spaces?

Truly healing hospitals.

Seriously, what time is it?