Open Your Eyes

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First, a brief announcement: I’m hosting two book giveaways this week. If you missed the first interview, click here. Tomorrow you’ll find the next interview and book giveaway. Winners to be announced on Sunday.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you what’s been on my mind lately. My good friend Sharon Van Zandt had this lovely quote on her blog:

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.
E. B. White

If you know Sharon, you know that she deeply believes this.

That quote takes me back to an incident last week. After we watched Ender’s Game (in case you’re curious, I enjoyed it), a friend of mine introduced me to a new toy store in our area. She searched for toys for her toddlers. I went along for the ride.

I’m glad I did.

I wish I’d thought to take a photo of the inside of the store. Picture a wonderland of toys on low shelves (at a kid’s level) or set up in inviting displays. The store featured the kind of toys you might have grown up with: Etch A Sketch, stuffed animals, puzzles, books, dolls, building blocks, train sets, and trucks—all for a new generation.

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We lingered in the store until the salesperson calmly informed us that the store was closing. I admired her restraint. While we browsed, she had remained at the register instead of following us around, forcing a snappy sales pitch on us and other guilt-inducing suggestions for making kids happy. (“Don’t deprive your kids of the new Mega-Block Tower Set. Only $69.99.”) She allowed us time to look and reminisce. Also, she didn’t try to hustle us out of the store. You know that look: the salesperson stands at the door with a key in the lock, giving you strong vibes to get out.

I’m glad we took time to stop and look and play. (I feel sorry for any parent who dares to bring a child to that store. You’ll never be able to convince him or her to leave.)

Sharon’s post and my trip to the toy store reminded me of what I’ve been missing lately. Because I have a goal for NaNoWriMo, word count has been at the forefront of my mind. I lost sight of the goal I had when I first began writing: to write with eyes filled with wonder.

The quote Sharon included was incredibly apt, because E. B. White’s writing, particularly Charlotte’s Web, has always embodied wonder to me. It reminds me to stop and look at life with the unbridled enthusiasm of a child.

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I know. We don’t stay children. We grow up and have jobs and mortgage payments and kids and cars that need repairing. People we love fall ill and we suffer the grief of loss. Others annoy or disappoint us. Wonder is difficult to sustain in a world determined to beat us down. We go through life with our eyes squeezed shut instead of open in wonder.

Iconic books like Charlotte’s Web acknowledge that sad things occasionally happen. But the fact that sad times occur does not negate wonder. Wonder is not a bury-your-head-in-the-sand, rose-colored-glasses feeling. It is countercultural—an intentional response to a jaded mindset or a busy, hurry-it-up lifestyle.

That’s why we have to fight to hang on it, to avoid treating it as if it’s just for kids or the hopelessly naïve. It takes determination to be watchful for those wonder-filled moments where we feel glad to be alive. (Sing it with me: “The hills are aliiiiiive with the sound of music!”) It means being willing to look foolish as you stop and look and play. For me, however, it means being willing to sacrifice my word count goal, if at at the end of the day the answer to the question, “Am I having fun writing?” is no.

When was the last time you felt wonder? Don’t you think it’s time you did? I dare you to open your eyes and embrace the wonder. To help you along the path, I’ve decided to be spontaneous and send one person a print copy of Charlotte’s Web. (I didn’t see an eBook listed.) If you’ve never read it, comment below and I’ll enter your name in the drawing. If you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what you thought about it. Or, share a moment where you were filled with wonder.

Have a wonder-filled day!

Etch A Sketch from cotradeco.com. Charlotte’s Web cover from Goodreads. Kid looking amazed from parentdish.co.uk.

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26 thoughts on “Open Your Eyes

  1. Wonder-always. Whenever I go outdoors-I do notice the changes around me. The transformative touch of Autumn, as I await my favourite season Winter.
    I have posted on this many times-the night I stayed up watching the meteor shower. My list for inspiration, how all I need includes ‘a square of sky, a sight of sea, the flight of birds, the dance of trees..’
    It may sound a bit pretentious, but it really is how I view the outside world. And what’s more, if, God forbid, I ever become blasé to it all, I can re-live it again through the eyes of my children.
    Speaking of which-how great is that image on the etch a sketch? The one I had as a kid just produced a scrawl of straight lines.

    • I should have pretended that I made that sketch. I get great thoughts after the fact.
      Yes, I’m glad you have a sustained sense of wonder, which I hope will result in another poem on your blog. And what happened with your daughter’s clubs like the cooking one????

      • The Cooking and Craft clubs are going on.
        However my Facebook has been taken over by several mothers of other children reminding me on a regular basis when the clubs are on, times etc.
        I have been making a habit of turning up when I shouldn’t, not turning up when I should. It has become a popular ‘Andy Bait’.

  2. There is joy and wonder in the air. Here, I found wonder. Yesterday, via Kathi Appelt, I found Patrick Ness’s nudge toward joy. “It’s so easy to be cynical about joy, but joy implies fearlessness as well. My advice about writing is always, Write with joy. People might not be able to tell that that’s the thing they’re responding to, but I believe that if you write with joy every day, that rubs off. It’s an intangible thing, but if you do something joyously, it’s going to attract other people like mad.” Thank you Linda, Sharon, Kathi & Patrick for reminding me they are there, in the air. Joy and Wonder.

    • Is the interview with Kathi up? I’ll go check it out!!
      I need to open up a can of joy and get some writing down too, Sandra. Haven’t written a thing today. But I had to kid sit. We had a blast playing houseboat, camping, and I think we traveled into outer space.

  3. Wonderful. I always suspected that you were Wonder Woman.
    I experienced wonder last night, as I fed my Barn Owl, looking at her perfect wing, with perfect soft, silent feathers spread over her ‘kill’ to shield it. Then I stepped from her aviary to see Jupiter bossing the night sky. After a tiring and frustrating day (sing, ‘d’ya ever have one of those days boys, d’ya ever have one of those days, from noon, till night, when nothin’ goes right…) or to be more precise, a frustrating life… I’m so fortunate that I’ve never lost the ability to behold wonder.

    • I knew I could count on you, John. 🙂 But actually, I’m Superman. According to the superhero quiz thingie I am. I didn’t see that coming. Oh well. At least I have the ability to fly.

    • That’s the great thing, especially, about fantasy books. And your blog. I can always find a serious discussion about monsters and magic there. As a matter of fact, I need to hop over.

  4. Love this! I felt wonder the night before last when the rain turned to snow. It only lasted for 1/2 hour, but it was beautiful and very rare in Charlotte, NC in November. Oh, I loved the Etch A Sketch when I was a kid. I’ve never been able to draw, but that toy made me feel like an artist. 🙂

    • I also loved the Etch A Sketch. I get a warm feeling every time I see one.
      The snow sounds lovely. We had snow here too in Illinois, but it quickly disappeared. The cold weather has remained, however.

  5. Have I ever told you that I love the way you write? You phrase and frame ideas so perfectly. 🙂

    I was just thinking about this subject this morning when I was out walking Jack, and feeling sorry for people whose eyes are closed to the wonder and magic in the world. They might think I’m crazy for seeing a giant pirate ship in the clouds (it was SO COOL!), but I pity those who can’t or don’t see these things.

    My eyes were closed to it for years. Now I’m training my imagination to misbehave and my mind to play with ideas and images and words. Life is more fun, now, and the world is more beautiful.

      • Awww. Thank you. 😀 Um, I thought you posted your NaNo excerpts on Fridays. I stopped by but didn’t see one. Maybe it’s coming?
        I’m gonna go look for a donut. Those always help me with my sense of wonder.

      • 🙂 Donuts. I remember the days…
        Yes, normally Friday would equal excerpt. Sadly, I didn’t find my Neo chord until this afternoon. 😦 I will try to put something up tomorrow. 🙂 (I can’t express how much it means to me that you stopped by!!!)

    • Oh thank you, Kate. This has been one of those days when I doubted my ability to write. So, thank you.
      And I can tell you, you have a wonderful imagination. Your writing has such a spark (gosh it’s so easy to pun your last name). Never doubt that you were meant to be a writer!!!

  6. Thank you for this, Linda! I needed it today. But I did take time to admire and gaze with wonder at the fuchsia and purple streaks of the sunset that filled the western sky as I was driving home from work tonight. Stunning. It is a choice isn’t it, to look with wonder, even alongside all our frustrations and losses and disappointments?

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