Nature instills wonder. We just have to notice.
I recently read a Writer’s Digest article on how authors should gauge their success. It said, “Start by asking yourself: Why did I write this book?”
I wrote Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature because transformations fascinate me. Each summer, I watch flowers turn into fruit in my backyard. (The picture of my apple tree shows this beginning.) Many kids have never watched this happen, but through the words and photos in the book, they can. That’s true for all the changes in the book—those involving caves, canyons, crystals, and more.
Why is this important? On the surface level, it’s important to learn about science. But on a deeper level, it’s important to add wonder to our lives. Transformations are a source of wonder.
Wonder awakens our minds. It floods us with positive emotions. It leads to joy.
So how can we add more moments of wonder to our everyday lives? Nature continually puts on a show. Our job is to slow down enough to see it.
Jennifer Pharr Davis, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, has a lot to say about pausing to experience nature. Her memoir, Becoming Odyssa, records her adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail as a recent grad of Samford University. One day on her trek from Georgia to Maine, she checked into a motel to take a break. With nothing to do but watch television, she tuned in to the MTV Music Awards. “Somewhere amid the evening gowns and makeup, the loud music and provocative performances, I was overcome with a sense of fakeness. Nothing about the awards show seemed real.” She felt empty and eager to get back on the trail. The next day, she did. From that point on, she made this vow:
“to find a resting spot each afternoon where I could sit still for an hour and watch the world around me. I’d stop and get to know a stream or watch the trees dance in the breeze. I marveled at spiders building webs, squirrels gathering nuts, and birds calling to each other.… I just needed to be still….”
Madeline L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, expressed a similar thought in her memoir A Circle of Quiet. Being in nature restores her:
“My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings.… I sit there, dangling my legs and looking through the foliage at the sky reflected in the water, and things slowly come back into perspective.… If I sit for a while, then my impatience, crossness, frustration, are indeed annihilated, and my sense of humor returns.”
I wrote Night Becomes Day because I have had the same type of experience. I have felt the mix of calm, clarity, and energy that comes from being still in nature. It may happen sitting on a beach, drifting in a canoe, or even pruning flowers in my garden.
Sometimes nature takes us beyond wonder into awe. Awe is a wonderful thing to feel, as authors Alan Havis and Alice McGinty noted that in a recent newsletter. They cited a USA Today article that said:
“Awe is shown to make us happier and contribute to greater life satisfaction, to make us care more about other people and to increase our humility.”
Is it a leap to say that kids will be more compassionate when they see how apple blossoms become fruit? Perhaps. But there is a kernel of truth there. Finding awe in nature leads us from the mundane to the intricate and inexhaustible. It takes us beyond ourselves and our immediate concerns; it frees us to think of the wideness of the world and everyone who shares it. I hope that turning the pages of Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature will inspire a child to find wonder and experience awe.
- “Creating an Author Success Map: Why Reasonable Expectations Can Help Grow Your Author Brand.” Marissa Decuir, Writer’s Digest, September 5, 2020.
- News[letter] from the Happy Side. Alan Havis and Alice McGinty, https://mailchi.mp/fbc0b507ea7c/newsletter-from-the-happy-side-6227245.
- “Awe makes us happier, healthier and humbler.” Alia E. Dastagir, USA Today, June 7, 2021.
- Becoming Odyssa. Jennifer Pharr Davis, Beaufort Books, 2010 (pp. 235-6).
- A Circle of Quiet. Madeline L’Engle, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1972.