Awe

Wasps occasionally alight on the outside of panes of glass in the big windows along the back wall of my living area. When they land, the wasps tend to stay on the glass, unmoving, for several minutes at a time. I sometimes take advantage their lengthy rests by looking very closely at them through the glass. A close-up view reveals enormous complexity in the structures of their bodies. By looking intently at them, I can see tiny jaws, miniscule “whiskers” emerging from their heads, hair-like structures rising from their legs, sophisticated joints between parts of their bodies—incredibly intricate forms that seem, to me, almost impossibly complex for creatures so small.

But, then, when I am outside on the deck I regularly see other much smaller insects, critters a tiny fraction of the size of those wasps. Yesterday, I spied what I call a worm, for lack of a better term, that would have been nearly invisible except for my eyes just happening to see a tiny spider nearby. As I gazed at the spider, I saw the tiny worm scooting along the deck railing. It appeared to have two almost microscopically thin “noses,” one on each end of its body. Between them, its body was invisible except for incredibly small tufts of white hair that hid what I assume was a midsection. The tips of the white hairs were black and red. Simply by looking at it, I could not tell which end was the front and which was the back. I assumed the front was the end moving forward…it could have been backing up, though. I watched it, fascinated at its size and the fact that I could actually see its distinct parts; they were so amazingly small.

Those creatures are just two of what must be hundreds or thousands or even millions of miniature life forms I overlook almost every day. Unless I push myself to look very closely at what exists before me, I often miss the beasts all around me. Another creature is so small I can see only that it is there; it is a tiny red-orange dot, much smaller than a pinhead, that is visible only when the dark charcoal of the deck railing is behind it. It body structures are far too small for me to see, much less differentiate one part of its body from another.

When I take the time to focus my attention on the wasps and beetles and worms and almost microscopic beings all around me, I feel a child-like sense of awe well up inside me. I cannot adequately describe the feeling; it’s something like enormous gratitude that I am fortunate enough to see things so stunningly beautiful, but that’s not quite it. I think it must be equivalent to what the first astronauts (and all since, I’m relatively sure) feel when they look back at Earth from space. I read, recently, about one of the first American astronauts who described what he saw when he looked back at our planet and explained that he was overwhelmed by the fragility of the little dot on which we live. The sense of awe is so precious I wish I could capture it and use it to reawaken in me that feeling of wonder when sadness or despair overtake me. Maybe that feeling is akin to how religious people feel when they think of what they consider God.

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Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. A day early, here is to all the mothers—past, present, and future—and all the women who might have been or might be or may never be mothers—past, present, and future. I honor them for their vital contributions to humankind and their tendency to represent the gentler and usually more reasonable aspect of humanity.

Like so many other “holidays,” this one largely has been appropriated by commercial interests anxious to appeal to our love and sentiments for mothers as a means of reaching into our pocketbooks. What the hell, though. Flowers and chocolates and thoughtful gifts that emphasize our love and appreciation for women can overwhelm the raw greed of capitalism on this day, allowing us to overlook the more base aspects of our money-driven culture.

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Yesterday was a magnificent day, weather-wise. And it turned out to be a very nice day otherwise, as well. I spent several hours with a friend, who was kind enough to introduce me to her friend who is in the process of preparing a very nice small RV for sale, which he allowed me to tour. The RV, while enormous compared to my vehicle, is “smallish” at 25 feet in length for a Class A version. It comes complete with a double (or queen?) bed, kitchen, bath, retractable awning, etc., etc., etc. I may test drive it on Monday.

The afternoon began with lunch at a coffee shop, followed by the RV tour. Then, I went to my friend’s house, where I sat in her RV and met her four dogs, her parrot, and her neighbor, Charlie, who had installed a new sway bar on my neighbor’s RV the day before. My friend, who enjoys writing, suggested we exchange our work and encourage one another’s writing. So, we’re planning to do that. Extremely nice day, yesterday.

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Today, I I am fortunate to have been invited to join some friends for a short road trip to North Little Rock to enjoy a meal and some good, locally crafted beer. I am almost as fully engaged in “awe” of good food and good beer as I am with spectacularly complex tiny life forms. Let the day begin in earnest! One of these same friends prepared Jerk Chicken a few nights ago and generously delivered some to share with me, knowing my affinity for spicy foods. My God, it was so good! Jerk chicken, atop a bed of spicy rice laced with peas and beneath a topping of strips of bacon…I ate it last night and felt like I had been given a gift of unmatched flavor. I wish I could have shared it with my wife; she shared my love for spicy, flavorful foods. 🙁  I feel so incredibly fortunate at this moment. Somehow, this day seems to be unfolding as another one of those rare days when gratitude for living seems to be just bursting out of me.

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I am drinking coffee from a Boston Stoker mug, courtesy of the Dayton, Ohio branch of my family. They sent me a surprise package of goodies that arrived yesterday. Some days are just spectacular reminders of how fortunate I am to have people in my life who care for me. And that was not all that was waiting for me when I got home yesterday. A hand-written note card  from someone who has kept me reasonably sane for months came in the mail, too. I am in love with the world right now. It feels good.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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