Renewing the sense of wonder

I've recently been reading a couple of books about how to share nature with children and they have made me realize how I've been a bit starved myself of the wonder Mother Nature instills in me. I notice in myself the desire to be WOWed by Nature. I want her to show me something great and new, something spectacular; I'm like a child who clings to her mother claiming she's bored and demands to be entertained even though I'm surrounded by toys. Maybe reading these books has simply brought out the child within.

Last night I lay in my hammock gazing up at the sky, hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower, but to no avail - likely due to Kampala's light pollution. I wasn't shown the spectacle I wanted, but soon, the waxing moon and the few stars that shown through became enough and that wonder began to return.

Today, I turned my attention to the backyard. I took my camera to test out some macro lens extenders and soon became engulfed in common nature - the colors of leaves, the texture of a mushroom, bugs piddling about. And soon the common didn't feel so common anymore. I watched ants in a twig carry eggs back and forth and a bug that I had never seen before landed on my shoulder. I spotted a small spiders web and then noticed its owner tucked under a blade of grass, waiting for the right visitor.

From the great cosmos to life in the backyard, my sense of wonder has been renewed in the last 24 hours - not because I was shown anything new and incredible, but because, as Aldous Huxley reminds us, "discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

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Books I recommend about sharing nature with children: 

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson (Truly a gem of a book!)

Vitamin N: The essential guide to a nature-rich life by Richard Louv

Waiting on Nature, in Nature

A couple of days ago, I lamented to Eric about how bored I am as we await the arrival of Toto.  I had taken a few guilt-filled days binge watching episodes of Scandal and wanted to find better ways to fill my time.  I then read my own blog post when I announced my pregnancy and laughed at how, at that time, I deeply desired "solitude and easiness of life," which I now have in abundance.  This time, I'm complaining that I just want something to DO.

Dad helped us discover the Douglas Preserve in Hamilton, Indiana, just a few miles from home, and it has been a God-send.  We have been there 3 times in the past week and it's become my favorite way to pass the time, to get my butt moving, and to enjoy the coming forth of Spring.  The baby will come when Nature calls it forth and until then, I'll be waiting and walking and communing with so many forms of life in this place, as much as I can.

When I found out I was pregnant, I happened to be reading a fantastic book, When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd, which I should revisit.

Also, due dates are a lie.  Do yourself and any pregnant woman a favor and ignore them.

Inspiration to Make You Fall in Love With Our Earth

To celebrate Earth Day, I share with you some of my favorite recent inspirations that have made me fall more in love with Nature and our Mother Earth:

“She's never forgotten, either, how a mystery caught in the hand could lose its grace.”   -Barbara Kingsolver

1. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, weaves together three characters in southern Appalachia as they attempt to navigate the Earth around them as well as their own human nature.  Her website calls this novel, "a hymn to wildness."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2. The photography of Katernia Plotnikova.  Here is a teaser:

3. A podcast interview from OnBeing with Wangari Maathai, Planting the Future:
"A remarkable Kenyan woman and environmentalist speaks from experience about the links between ecology, human flourishing, war and peace, and democracy. And she shares her thoughts on where God resides."

4. This quote:

5. This short video of the famous words by Carl Sagan about our Earth, "The Pale Blue Dot," paired with thought-provoking images of our world.

"If the self is expanded to include the natural world, behavior leading to destruction of this world will be experienced as self-destruction."
 -David Suzuki

6. The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki
From his website:
"The basic message of this seminal, best-selling work remains the same: We are creatures of the earth, and as such, we are utterly dependent on its gifts of air, water, soil, and the energy of the sun. These elements are not just external factors; we take them into our bodies, where they are incorporated into our very essence...
As social animals, we have an absolute need for love; without it, we suffer dire psychological and physical consequences... Finally, we have spiritual needs, which are ultimately rooted in nature, the source of our inspiration and belonging. These are the real requirements of all humanity and should form the basis of any society aspiring to a truly sustainable future."

 

7. This quote:

8. Best of all, take yourself into nature.  Pick up a leaf and notice its subtle colors and lines.  Sit in the grass and look at the clouds.  Or consider a forest bath.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
— Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

A local gem: Gene Stratton-Porter

For someone who...
...craves nature
...devours books
...loves photography
...believes in the power of women
...wants to uplift the local,

it was exciting to re-stumble upon the life of an incredible woman, Gene Stratton-Porter, when investigating local sites around my home in Indiana.  I felt a connection with this woman just after reading about her online, so I knew I wanted to visit her cabin as soon as the weather warmed up.

Sure enough, April 1st, which happened to be the day her cabin at Wildflower Woods opened for tours, turned out to be the most beautiful day of the year so far.  Eric and I ventured over to this historical site to learn more about the woman who...
...studied nature with a passion and worked to conserve the wild
...wrote several popular novels and turned many of them into movies
...photographed the world around her
...broke limiting gender stereotypes and became wildly successful
...made her career in northeast Indiana.
 

 
 

After sitting in the sun and watching the many birds flit among the trees around this site at Sylvan Lake, we took a tour of Gene-Stratton Porter's cabin and grounds, all of which she designed herself and purchased with her own earnings - certainly an accomplishment during a time when her husband had to write to the bank, telling them she had his permission to own land.

We learned that this spunky woman would put on her pants (quite the act of rebellion) and spend all day in nature, often with only her camera and notebook.  With no zoom lens at her disposal, she would sit in a branch for hours near the nest of a bluebird until it got used to her and carefully snap a close-up.

Gene Stratton-Porter wrote 12 novels in her lifetime, many which still inspire today's writers and readers.  Weaving compelling stories and characters together with nature and the environment, her style reminds me much of Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite contemporary novelists.  In fact, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, listed GSP as one of her best inspirations.

Her true love, however, was writing nature studies.  Knowing that her novels were much more popular and lucrative than nature studies, she eventually made a deal with her publisher to let her write one study for every novel, and so she completed 9, in addition to other poetry and essays.

Her novels became so popular that Hollywood wanted to turn many of them into movies, but Gene couldn't stand the thought of her stories being misrepresented, so she moved out to Hollywood herself and became one of the first women owners of a movie production company.  Her most popular book, A Girl of the Limberlost, has now been turned into a movie 4 times.

 
 

It's funny how we are often unaware of the places of interest in our own area.  I vaguely remembered this place from a time I came with my sister's Girl Scout troop when I was very young, but I had never thought of visiting since then.  I am so glad we made the effort to explore the cabin, grounds, and life of Gene Stratton-Porter.  I walked away with a book tucked under my arm that I can't wait to read and a whole lot of inspiration from this creative, confident, inspiring woman.

 
 

Are there any sites in your area that you may have overlooked, but just might love visiting?

Uganda from above

One of my very favorite things is to fly over the Earth on a clear day, sitting contently in a window seat; I easily get lost in the stunning landscapes below me, sitting in awe at the beauty of our Earth as I see it from a new perspective.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be flown to Gulu, in transit to our school in Nimule, South Sudan.  My stop in Gulu was one of three stops and knowing that Kidepo National Park was one of them, I casually mentioned I wouldn't mind being the last to be dropped off if others were in a hurry to reach their destinations.  The other passengers were pleased and the pilot obliged, which means I sat happily in my seat, watching Uganda pass under me. 

In one trip we flew over the packed slums of Kampala to Uganda's most remote game park, witnessing within a couple of hours the juxtaposition of Kampala's jammed traffic to a huge herd of water buffalo spread across the Karamoja plains.

Do you see the buffalo herd? (10th picture down)