“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
~ Walt Streightiff
Earlier this year I agreed to participate in a friend’s Reiki course, as the subject of a distance healing session. I was curious to know what people might see in me, simply by looking at a photograph. I was surprised that someone who didn’t know me could detect that I had lost some sense of joy in my life and wanted very much to have it back; that I was trying to find inner peace; that I worry a lot and am very hard on myself; that I need more time for making music, writing poetry and reading; that I was missing the days of my childhood; that I had forgotten how to listen to my heart; that I have a special gift and some special purpose. On one hand I felt a bit exposed because these are things that I think about, but not things I expect anyone to notice about me. On the other hand, this was an affirmation that I have a complex inner life and that there is hope for continuing to grow, evolve and reconnect with what gives me joy. It is a while since I have thought about this distance healing session and since I have turned my thoughts inward to wonder what lesson I might receive from it, what impulse it might awaken in me.
Then recently we had a Monarch chrysalis in the classroom and I noticed something new. In addition to being a lovely shade of green, the chrysalis had spots of gold circling the top. I learned that these spots may be connected in some way to the colour of the butterfly’s wings or perhaps have some other purpose, such as camouflage. For me this was quite an “aha!’ moment. Later on we found a Monarch butterfly on the playground, and when I had it resting on my hand, I was in a state of awe. A colleague took a picture of me and I was struck by the expression on my face. It was the look of a person witnessing something magical. I felt like a child, seeing something truly amazing for the first time. Perhaps it isn’t joy that I have lost, but rather, my sense of wonder. There was so much I wanted to share with the children – the gold spots, the life cycle of the Monarch, the idea that they too had been a witness to something extraordinary – but unfortunately, that opportunity was lost. Could this be a sign that I need to find my way back to my sense of wonder? That the child inside this teacher needs to come out and spend more time wondering with the children I teach?
When I first decided to be an educator I think I was more open to experiencing wonder. Over time, I have worked in different environments, with different people, sometimes feeling creative and inspired, sometimes feeling frustrated and disheartened. It’s an on-going challenge to foster and protect your own sense of wonder, to create a learning environment that promotes this in children, to keep children awakened to the magic they can see around them each day. When researching this question, I came across a beautiful edition of Rachel Carson’s book, The Sense of Wonder. Illustrated with exquisite photographs by Nick Kelsh, of leaves, clouds, nests, grass, trees, snow, shells, water, stones, bark, moss, insects and starfish, Carson writes of explorations of nature with her young nephew, and how she fostered in him a love of nature without actively teaching him. Her view is that a child’s exploration of nature is an “expedition of exciting discovery” requiring “the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, discovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” It is a gorgeous book, and looking at it filled me with regret for that lost opportunity to share a moment of wonder with the children in my class. These moments can be fleeting, like the emergence of a Monarch. I hope to lose no further opportunities like that. Still, I feel that sense of wonder returning, and I will try not to lose it.
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
~ Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder