Dad gave me a book once called Recapture the Wonder, and I think what I loved the most was Dad’s inscription. He knew I would love the book, because I was already so inclined to be in awe.
It struck me in the last year that despite living only a few hours (and a half) from a free and wonderful zoo, and only five from the top zoo in the nation, my beautiful, wonder-filled Jake had never been to either. Seven years on earth, never once watching a gorilla through glass and feeling inescapably connected to the similarity of his giant, people hands? Never being so close to a lion’s roar that you feel it inside you and shiver? No giraffes or crocodiles? It was madness, and it had to be corrected.
“I want to go somewhere where I can marvel at something.” That’s what Elizabeth says in Eat, Pray, Love, and my heart soars every time I hear it, because how can any of us not want that?
And so we went. We crashed with my sisters and their children, combining the two best things in the world – vacation and cousins. And there was simply no end to the wonder. Although the lions slept, the penguins zipped and zagged, tuxedos and all, through their polar wonderland. The jellyfish glowed, and we marveled. The sharks lurked above us, the alligators below. The monkeys were gross, as all monkeys should be. The giraffes were regal. The baby hippopotamus swam under water as we watched from below. And then, there were dinosaurs.
This is Nola’s face (re-created, because we were way too busy marveling at the actuality to take a picture of it) when she saw and said in her own words, “They have … a pachycephalosaurus?” Nola is four. She also rounded another corner of the dino forest, saw a colorful dino head and asked, “Is that an ouranosaurus?” It was. (She watches a lot of Dinosaur Train apparently.) But the face pretty much represents us all when the omeisaurus towered above us and nodded its head at us so realistically that Violet would not pass by it without ducking. (You can see that picture at the end.)
The wonderful thing is that one day after returning from all that wonder, I finished a book by Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen. And at the end of it, in an interview, she explains why people love her books and the little touch of magic within them (like the visible soot left behind after a troubled marriage or the books that appear just when we need them)…”Maybe,” she says, “Because the books explore the magic of the ordinary. Everyday things are magical, we just take them for granted. Apples. Candy. A good haircut. Books. Community. Family. Friends. A small gift. A letter in the mail. Falling in love.”
But then I come home from the zoo. I buy school supplies, breathing deep the smell of a shiny new beginning. I wrap Jake’s arms around my neck and love the feeling so much that it hurts. I miss my sisters. I make my husband laugh. And it’s perfect and it’s magic and it’s knee-deep full of wonder. And I marvel.
The monotony of life is unbearable only when we forget to look. I’m not that good at it either – I just know it well enough to write it down. I’m terrible at it at 6:30 in the morning. I go week after week wishing for the weekend, wishing my life away – as Grandma always told us not to do. I get so tired of working every day just to pay for the right to get up and do the same the next day. I’m as prosy as anyone when Monday rolls around. But I have seen the poetry – I feel it just often enough to remind us all, for goodness sake, to hang on tight to the wonder. It really is there, in every ordinary thing.