A number of years ago, some friends of mine (along with a few folks that I didn’t know) started up a small-circulation magazine called Wonder. I was hooked from the first copy I got, but as things in publishing usually go, the magazine was not a smashing success, and the labor of love proved too much labor for the available love, and Wonder went the way of most start-up periodicals. It was sad to me, because the premise of the magazine’s origin is one that should be spread far and wide – the sense of wonder that is all around us. That magazine focused on literature and movies, but I personally extend wonder to every field of inquiry – nature, science, mathematics, work, etc.
At one time or another in my life I’ve had formal training in psychology, theology, and electricity and electronics. But on my own, I’ve studied a far wider range of topics. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an insatiable hunger for learning something new all the time, and an intense fascination with the magic that is constantly present in the world. In my years of junior high and high school, I was a mediocre student, just doing enough to get by, because the standard curriculum and the means of transferring it just did not appeal to me. It wasn’t that I was a lazy student – I was constantly studying. Dictionaries and encyclopedias formed a world that was a second home to me. There were new worlds to which I could always travel, and travel I did...oftentimes without even having to leave the living room couch.
But the wonder was not only to be found in books, I also wandered the woods near my house, taking in with my eyes and my soul every tree, every shadow, every breeze, like a starving man taking in food. Then when I was in the eighth grade, I chose for a 4-H project to grow tomato plants from seed, and this led to a deep love of growing things. For years afterward, I studied everything I could get my hands on about plants and flowers. I collected cuttings from several of my elderly aunts and great-aunts who has splendid begonias, sultanas, and a lovely red and purple variegated plant they called goose gizzard. I ordered seed of all sorts and got on the W. Altee Burpee and Parks mailing lists. I subscribed to Flower and Garden and Horticulture magazines. The whole world of living things seemed to call out to me.
I didn't take on hobbies; I took on passions. Through the years I've become fascinated by airplanes, paper maché sculpting, crocheting, old time radio shows, stamp collecting, the theater, classical music... and the list goes on. Some of the passions have fallen by the wayside, and others have remained to this day. But the sense of wonder has been continuous.
Being bored was rarely a problem for me when I was a child, and it still isn’t. Everything offers fascination of one sort or another, whether intellectual or spiritual – and after all, aren’t those two pillars of the same building. I have lain upon the ground and watched ants traveling along dragging bits of leaves or cookie crumbs, I’ve marveled over a couple of square feet of soil as tiny flower seeds germinated and began searching for sunlight, I’ve ravished the night sky with my eyes absorbing from a billion stars the light that began its journey billions of years ago.
Books, music, magazines, movies, the theater, the science lab, the inventor’s workshop, the artist’s studio… and on and on it goes, this marvelous path of wonder that waits at the tips of our toes for us to step onto it. Like the Yellow Brick Road led to the magical Emerald City of Oz, so lies the road of wonder before each of us. All we have to do is take a step, then another, then another, then…