Due to the pandemic, last summer was the first time my children were not in some sort of full-time day care or camp.
Early on, my husband and I fell into the habit of leading morning “nature walks” around our neighborhood. Weather permitting, every day one of us would head out the door with the kids so the other could either work or simply sit in silence for an hour.
Our home sits in the perfect location for regular walks and runs (typically accompanied by earbuds and a podcast or music.)
But during the pandemic the earbuds were left at home and the kids introduced us to a new way of exploring the neighborhood — a practice that actually has a name: wondering.
Wondering is exactly what it sounds like. As you walk, you do not start the exercise app on your smart watch or pay attention to your pace or heart rate. Instead, you casually stroll down the street and begin to wonder:
“Why is that tree growing sideways?”
“What are those birds saying to each other?”
“Where does that trail go?”
We took to playing in a spot around the Town Creek pond where they collected frogs and built “sand castles” out of mud.
Our youngest took the liberty of naming various wildlife. More than once a fox was spotted as well as an occasional snake.
And, if we’re honest, a few times I became overwhelmed with the amount of wondering going on and asked if we could just stop asking questions for a few minutes. Children wonder about everything — it is one of the best things about them.
The Psalmist acknowledges the way wondering reveals to us God’s love for humankind and the earth we inhabit in Psalm 8, “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! …When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”
Creation is vast. We are small. Yet God is attentive to each and all of us, as we should be to God’s creation.
As adults we begin to lose our capacity for wondering. I’ve noticed this more and more as life is returning to “normal” post-pandemic.
When the kids went back to school I put my earbuds in and resumed tracking the lengths of my walks and runs. More than once I’ve likely walked right by the sideways-growing tree or the squirrel affectionately known as “Squirrelly Nuts Reed.”
Like any spiritual practice, even wondering requires discipline.
Now, summer is here again and this time our family has been given the gift of a sabbatical from regular church duties.
We plan to spend most of it outside, and I’m hoping that means we get back to wondering. This time there will be fewer phone calls and emails to manage so I’m ready to get serious about this spiritual art.
I’m hoping that once again, the children will take the lead.
Rev. Kathy Wolf Reed serves as co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Auburn. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Journal for Preachers, The Christian Century, and Presbyterians Today.