Wonder

NaBloPoMo_November_smallTonight, at 8:15pm NASA launched a rocket from Wallops Island Flight Facility, VA. The rocket carries a record 29 satellites to be deployed once in orbit. With just two minutes to go, a perfectly clear sky and the U-Stream live coverage of the launch on my phone, I bundled up and stepped outside with my family to try and catch a glimpse of the rocket in the night sky.

We weren’t really sure what we were looking for, but as soon as we saw the live liftoff on the phone, we began scanning the sky in the approximate direction of the launch.  About 20 seconds after liftoff we found the glowing orange ball in the sky. The girls were excited; pointing and yelling and jumping up and down. We’ve watched spectacular meteor showers and gazed at giant moons together. We’ve sat in the grass as the fireflies danced around us, but this was the first time we’ve seen a rocket launch. Pretty darn cool.

We were all filled with such a sense of wonder. It made us feel both tiny in the scope of the Universe and important at the same time, witnessing something rare and precious. The excitement the girls felt melted into wonder and we stood quietly for a few minutes as the orange glow faded and was then gone.

Mirriam-Webster defines wonder as “a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising, beautiful, or amazing,” but to me the definition is lacking somewhat. It doesn’t seem to encompass the totality of the feeling, although I am at a loss about how to improve that definition. I hope you’ve experienced true wonder. I know as children we can be filled with wonder about so many things. It’s rarer to experience it regularly as an adult, but it does seem rather vital. I remember the first piece of art that inspired wonder in me – I was in Europe after graduating college and in a museum, I came across Rodin’s “The Kiss” and I stood transfixed. We saw a lot of art that trip and nothing affected me the same way.

What we saw tonight is what happens when someone is brilliant enough to merge science and creativity. The specialness, maybe even the sacredness of what we saw tonight cannot adequately be put into words. I hope though, that you have experienced true wonder because then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I want my daughters’ childhoods to be filled with as many moments of wonder as possible so they learn to recognize it later in life and then pass the experience on to their own children. I think tonight was one of those nights for them that they’ll remember, I hope so at least. I know I’ll remember.

Today is day 18 in the National Blog Posting Month challenge.

Words Are Powerful

On Thursdays, I teach creative writing to a group of 1st and 2nd graders. We’re having a great time and I am always impressed with their abilities to come up with unique and fun ideas. The best thing about this age group is that seven and eight-year-olds are rarely laden with doubts about what they’ve created. I’ve yet to hear one of them utter, “well that could never happen.”

We are just wrapping up a huge multi-week project where they kids created their own country. The kids developed an entire packet filled with maps and flags and descriptions of what it’s like to live in their country, what their title is (as they were all the leaders of their countries, naturally) and other similar activities. But their favorite part, by far, was the section where they wrote out the laws for their countries.

When we began working on this project, their laws were tentative, they weren’t sure what they could say – would their parents approve? Would I?

But here’s the thing – how much power do seven or eight-year-olds actually have in this world? Not a whole heck of a lot. So I gave them a world where they could rule absolutely. My mantra for the past three weeks has been, “Your country, your rules.” They didn’t trust me at first – they’d say things like, “what if there was a law that you had to eat just candy for dinner?” Your country. Your rules.  Then they moved on to pushing the envelope, just to see how serious I was.  “What if the law says you can’t use the bathroom in my country?” “Well, you might want to think through the ramifications of that, but your country, your rules.” Pretty soon they weren’t asking me anything anymore, instead they were writing. With intent and purpose and without limitations. It was a sight to behold.

After class was over, I even wrote their parents and emphasized that they should use the same mantra as I, no matter what their student wanted to write.

What my students figured out in that moment is that words are powerful. Their words are powerful. Even if just for a few minutes when they each made their presentations, no one questioned what they had imagined and wrote.  Your country is shaped like a narwhal? Of course. In your country, there are lollipop trees? Aren’t they beautiful this time of the year. And if you tell me that no big brothers are allowed in your country at all, I will stand at the border and defend it right along with you.

I’m hoping this is something they hold on to and take with them throughout their lives.  Words are powerful. They can bring people together or tear them apart. Words call people to action, convincing some people to think differently and inspiring some to change the world. That’s a lot to take in when you’re seven or eight and I don’t suspect they realize even a portion of  that yet. I just hope they learn to love writing, in part from our small time together on Thursday afternoons so that when the time comes when they can understand just how powerful their words can be, they’re ready to hear that message.

If I had my own country, that would be my law.

This is bog post #7 in the 30 day “National Blog Posting Month” series of challenges. Stop by every day to see how I’m progressing.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and…

Earth dayToday is Earth Day. Started in 1970, Earth Day has become a world-wide movement of social action and change. It’s not just about “reduce, reuse and recycle.” (While this is certainly a great first step), It’s about changing the way we approach life and think about our relationship and responsibility  to each other and the world.

So, get out there and change the world just a little bit.

How?

I’m glad you asked.

You could share a song with the world like this one. (WARNING: This video contains super adorable children some of which, may or may not live in my house.)

You could become a “Renegade Gardener” like Ted Talk presenter Ron Finley who encourages people to get out and plant because:

“I am an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. A graffiti artist beautifies walls; I beautify parkways and yards.
I treat the garden as a piece of cloth and the plants and the trees are the embellishment of that cloth. You’d be surprised what soil can do if you let it be your canvas.”
 
“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

You could check out the Decorah Eagles, highlights from the manatee cam or this African waterhole . Then after picking your favorite, write a check to a group that helps preserve these animals so that your great-grandchildren also get to see them.

You can even help scientists comb through their data on a variety of subjects at www.zooniverse.com. Our favorites over there have been identifying animals through photos taken on the Serengeti plains as well as the ocean floor.

Get out there and find a way you can contribute. It’s important. I leave you with the thoughts of the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth in their “Introductions to Green Papers on Environment and Justice.”

The fate of Earth urgently depends on humanity’s ability to imagine and build a world in which all beings are treated justly and live to their fullest potential within a self-sustaining web of life. How do you imagine such world? What ethics, theology, or values fire that vision? No matter our separate histories and experiences and no matter the source of our moral grounding, our separate paths are converging toward a common understanding that human flourishing and planetary well-being are inextricably linked. Increasingly we can agree that our common future depends on the capacity of all humans to:
  • Honor the integrity and interdependence of Earth’s natural systems
  • Recognize that every form of life has worth and contributes to the whole
  • Affirm the inherent value, dignity and potential in every human being
  • Build communities that are fair, participatory, and peaceful
  • Affirm the right of all people to access enough of the Earth’s abundance for sufficient, safe, and healthful food; sufficient clean water; clean air; and healthy, fertile soil
  • Ensure universal access to health care
  • Provide universal access to education, including the knowledge and skills needed to live sustainably
  • Create sufficient, meaningful and ecologically responsible livelihoods for all
  • Insure sustainable, fair access to renewable resources
  • Use nonrenewable resources sparingly, mindful of future generations
  • Attend to the beauty and mystery of Earth and practice reverence
 
 

2012 Word of the Year

We watched Tangled quite a bit over the holiday break in our household.  It’s a fun movie and I particularly like that Rapunzel does just as much rescuing in the movie as Flynn. (Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie and want to remained surprised, skip down to the next paragraph.) When I took my girls to see it for the first time in the theater, I couldn’t figure out who voiced Rapunzel. She sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite make the connection until that pivotal moment when Flynn slashes her hair off with the piece of broken mirror. Instantly, Rapunzel’s hair looses it’s golden color and becomes dark brown.  This dramatic change from long golden locks to a short brown bob made it suddenly obvious to me who the actress was, it finally looked just like her –Mandy Moore! Her transformation allowed me, for the first time, to see who she really was.

Without overdoing the metaphor – I sometimes feel a little like Rapunzel- waiting for my “real” life to get started. I’m cautious and I often research something to death before deciding to take a leap. I engage in a lot of preparation for even the most mundane of tasks and one of the repeating loops in my head can be heard saying “Someday, someday, someday…”

I’ve mentioned before, I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions in my own life. They are often one more thing to add in an already busy time and they are always the first things to drop by the wayside when cuts have to be made. What I find more effective is a technique Christine Kane uses; choosing a word to focus on for the year. This year I am pledging to start squeezing out the endless voice of “someday” and instead consider that things are possible right now. I want my life this year to be more of an action verb instead of  defaulting to the passive voice.  I’m going to do less prep work and more actual living. I’m going to come out of the tower and spend more time with my feet on the ground.  I will be the hero in my own story.  All of this will lead me to my word of the year:

TRANSFORMATION

What’s yours going to be?

 

 

Are you ready to kick start the new year and make it your best year ever?  During the month of January I am offering a one-hour single phone session to help you get crystal clear on your goals for the upcoming year and develop a realistic and inspiring plan to achieve those goals. This one-hour single session is discounted to a rate of $100.  Call or email me today!