As I’m preparing, researching, and generally agonizing about this new writing project, I’ve been spending time in the natural world. For me, that’s outside the walled dwelling space where I usually work. My daunting task is to write to life a character that will journey from fear to a focus on the wonder of her Creator and his creation. That is where this author believes the answer will reside–in a place and state of wonder.
We have the privilege of living in two beautiful locations. One is in Idaho and the other is on the remote tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The morning we walked out on the beach I’d been pondering this truth of finding peace in proper perspective of our place in creation. I walked out on the sun-kissed beach with senses heightened, ready to receive inspiration. Nature did not disappoint; it rarely does.
A mile down the beach a group of five eagles were gathered around a carcass of a dead harbor seal. When we encroached on their buffet, they flew off to sit and observe our passing from a distance. Perched on the driftwood at the edge of the tide line, they appeared more like magnificent carvings than living creatures. We passed and settled down to watch them. Before they returned, a plucky seagull chose to take advantage of the free feast. It was an ill-advised opportunity.
A flash of white, a flutter of wings, and one eagle swooped down on the unobservant seagull. The gull flew up, but too late. The eagle caught it in flight. A struggle ensued. The eagle lost its grip and the gull plunged into the sea. We held our breath, hoping the gull had escaped death’s snare. It was not to be. After a few minutes of floating, the gull’s head lowered to the waves and it was lifeless.
Stunned, we watched the body float a few feet from shore; the eagle returned to his perch. It was a drama played out in less than five minutes. Raw and awe-inspiring, this glimpse of the naturally ordered world left us speechless. I realized that my heart-pounding reaction was a response to wonder. Awful and wonderful. The term that had filled my imagination was realized on the beach that morning. This was wonderfear.
Once I thought that a quiet place to collect one’s thoughts and recharge lost energy was, in fact, quiet. A recent trip to the seaside convinced me that my perception is flawed. Quiet and peaceful are not necessarily equivalent. I’m sure this is not a revelation to occur only to me.
What I recently realized was that peaceful places where we go to calm our rattled nerves or lost perspective can be full of sound and fury. As I sit on my rock at the edge of the roaring sea, the crash of waves fully absorbs me. It drowns the clamor of thoughts vying for my attention, calling me to focus all my being to fully listen.
Such places can be found anywhere that the natural world has a chance to be heard. A flooded mountain stream. A meadow symphony of bird songs. Wind whistling through the pines. I think that a quiet place is not determined by decibels but by the attitude of the soul, my willingness to yield to forces greater than myself.
Sometimes the “noise” of a place is what draws from us the noise of negative voices, our own and the world’s. The pounding surf demands to be heard. It’s an ancient truth whispered in the foam and sea spray. Be still and know…
Knowing that I am small and that the universe is a very large space in which to find oneself brings a healthy form of fear. I am as much a part of this created wonder as the sea and the silent wind and gravity that propels and pulls it to the shore upon which I stand. I am undone and I am quiet in the presence of the Power that sang it all into being.
It’s like an under-worked muscle. Many of us are born with it well-developed. As children we meet the world with eyes of wonder and imaginations ready to accept the impossible. We want to be awed. We know that beneath every rock we turn over is an exciting discovery. Until we stop exploring life with those eyes of wonder life is beautiful.
When I snapped this picture, my initial thought was ‘how unfortunate for the poor pansy’. In the process of writing my new book, A Light From Friday Harbor, I’ve been reading and reflecting on the theme of hope. One recurring solution to hopelessness is the alteration of perspective. Sometimes we know it as attitude. For my character, Abby, dealing with diminished vision, the shift in perspective and diminished vision become metaphorical. How would Abby, with her striving for hope in a hopeless situation “view” this image?
If we were to call up our memories of childhood wonder, might we see delight here? There has always been something childlike in the face of a pansy or a violet or a primrose. These early heralds of spring have pluck. The fact that they are small compared to their showier cousins, the roses, adds to that impression of fortitude. If I were to caption this photo now, as I practice positive perspectives like Abby, I think I would pick words like ‘Courage’ or even ‘Hope”.
One of the few things we have control over in our brief time in this wonder-filled world is our attitude. Perhaps we’d be more mentally healthy working that muscle of perspective. Life might even become beautiful again. Wouldn’t that be a wonder?