The Wonder of It All
The air is crisp and clear in that chilly late November kind of way. A bright mid-morning sun shining through the barren trees casts a maze of twisted shadows upon the sidewalk. Lady Bird, who is 85 pounds of canine love,bounds along beside me in a happy trot. Following her very busy pink nose she rushes along from one good smell to the next. An easy breeze has the flags of fall waving to us from a neighbor’s front porch as we stroll by. The light blue sky on the horizon deepens to a darker almost cobalt blue directly overhead. Low hanging yet towering clouds,whose flat grey undersides are crowned with a halo of brilliant white at their peak, are painted in across the canvas of the sky. I cannot help but feel the wonder of this incredible life as I walk through this glorious day.
Holding a newborn in your arms, you feel its tiny hands barely wrapping around your pinky finger. Watch this precious little one as it sleeps, and the wonder of this beautiful creation overwhelms you. Finding immeasurable joy in the moment, thoughts of the sublime nature of life will turn your eyes inward in search of a creator.
We wandered foot trails through the lush green fields of Treshnish Point on the Isle of Mull in Scotland toward the sea. Like sprinkles on an ice cream cone, the thick grass was speckled with small yellow and white wildflowers on which puffball white sheep with black faces feasted. Several sheep stood atop a distant flat-topped rocky outcrop as sentinels overlooking the sea. On a low hillock, as if pointing the way, three standing stones over two meters tall and ringed by a stone circle stood silently as highland cows munched on the grass around them. Thousands of years old, erected before even the pyramids, who placed them here and why? Guardians, guides or gods, we can only pause to create a story for them for their true story has been lost.
My wife, Andrea, often teases that whenever we travel, I want to go to the farthest point possible, to that end of the world’s jumping off place. These kinds of places ignite my imagination with their limitless vistas and stir in my heart a tremendous sense of wonder in all of the amazing things that make up this glorious world. The teasing is well deserved. I do love these places and it is through them that I have also come to see the wonder of it all in the places close to home. An early morning walk through the neighborhood in spring reveals so many shades of green it bogles the mind. Front yard gardens full of flowers of every description greeting the sun in a rainbow of brilliant colors, while bees and butterflies flitter about in their busyness. Then there is also the quietness of the first gentle snowfall of the season. Through the early morning stillness, you can hear the snowflakes gently touching the ground. Everyone is staying home so the busy background noise of the highway is eerily silent as the world transforms under a blanket of glistening white crystals. It is an enchanted moment.
I often hear friends and family say, with dread, how on Monday it’s “back to the real world”. What a very sad and completely backwards way to approach this precious life. Feeling the quest for the almighty dollar as the“real” world is spirit crushing, coming upon us like a bulldozer through a quiet meadow. It pushes our attention in the opposite direction of our heart, destroying what peace we may have found. Our frayed and tired mind turns to solving the alleged problems of the day: getting kids to school, the boss is having a bad day, clients are demanding, the grass needs mowing and the dishes need washing. Like a nervous monkey in a tree, nothing holds our attention for long. We race from one branch to the next, up and down and round and round we go, our awareness shifting constantly as we reach for the next limb. As the day comes to a close and we find a quiet moment for ourselves, we turn on the big flat panels for more distractions to bombard our already tired mind with the news of the day, sports or the nightly drama of the latest TV series of cutthroat violence. Now immersed in media-created drama we go to bed where disturbing dreams haunt us through the night or awaken in the morning empty with no dreams at all.
As we negotiate this mind-numbing “real world” how many times do we hear ourselves say, “There has got to be a better way?” When we hear ourselves saying this, it is important to remember that how we live our life is our choice, and the entire time that the craziness is happening all around us, the sheep and highland cows are contently grazing upon grass and wildflowers, the sky remains blue and the waves continue their endless washing upon the shore. The wonder of it all is still there.
A well-known photographer once said that “there is no such thing as bad light” it is all in where we find ourselves in it and how we choose to use the light that is available to us. It is so easy to forget those moments when we were able to turn off the distractions and quiet our minds long enough to dwell in the wonder of it all. Perhaps taking a moment each day, in whatever light your find yourself, and choose to use it differently. In photography we do this by changing our perspective, moving closer to the subject or farther away. Observing it from overhead or from behind instead of always head on. Changing our perspective and how we perceive and experience a moment helps us to understand it from all sides. The snippy coworker may be dealing with a sick child and the demanding client simply needs some reassurance. How we respond to the available light is a choice which resonates to the deeper parts of our soul and then resonating outward manifests to those around us.
In those moments when life is at its most difficult and the pressures of job and family are demanding our immediate attention and we feel as if we could explode in frustration or shout out in anger, it is important to acknowledge this feeling. It is our spirit sending us a message, telling us we have lost our perspective and need to pause. We need a moment to quiet our mind and remember what we are and our place in this incredible world. We can do this by expanding the space between each thought, then resting our mind gently amid the soft and quiet place we find, allow the stillness to wash over us.
I find these little pauses help center me and bring calm into my life. They don’t take away the craziness going on around me, but they allow me to change my perspective and experience it a little differently. By freeing my grip on the anger or frustration that had come over me, I allow myself to reframe a moment, turning a negative to a positive by changing my place in the available light. As thoughts begin to creep back, I steer them towards a time in this wondrous journey that has inspired and reminded me of our true nature.
Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon is like standing on the edge of the world and seeing the story of its creation unfold before your eyes. Painted by the mood of the sun a vast and rugged landscape extends as far as the eye can see. Flat topped mesas crowned with a blanket of green protrude a mile above the canyon floor where the sculptor of this incredible work, the Colorado River, carves its way to the sea. The mesas sit atop plummeting cliffs hundreds of feet tall, forming pedestals and revealing the many layers of ages past. Some of these pedestals are as great amphitheaters with outstretched arms while others resemble the temples of the Mayans. Descending farther into the canyon these pedestals give way to rugged ever widening slopes until once again cliffs appear dropping to the canyon floor. A turquoise sky contrasts with the many colors of the strata, their oranges and reds, duller greys and white. The twisted and weather worn trees reaching out from the rim, some hundreds of years old, feel youthful when compared with the eon’s old canyon. Here we stand with our little blip of a lifespan, as a witness to and humbled by this glorious creation of which we area part and completely spellbound by the wonder of it all.
William C. Judge 2018