I collect things. Not like a hoarder or a hobbyist. It's less intense than that.
I see a moth on a street sign so I take a photo. Or another day, one of my boys finishes school and runs out to me in the playground with both his arms in the air. He's so excited about something that he forgets his bag. So I jot it down later. Or I'm on Facebook and a photo comes up on a group I'm part of which seems interesting so I screenshot it and save it. Yesterday an Oystercatcher walked a little too close before backing off.
Every day there are numerous moments like this where something makes me stop in my tracks and take notice. and they are nearly always a gift. Moments that amuse me, make me curious, open my senses to something, lift me in some way or simply make me more aware than the little world I live in is generative. That life wants to give us things. In that way, the practice is spiritual. For every moment I'm able to consciously absorb, I can thank God for it. I can wonder about it and be grateful it came my way.
I have been doing this for years now and out of any rhythms, habits or spiritual disciplines I have in my life, this has been among the most consistent.
The trick is not to ascribe meaning too quickly to the things you capture.
Wonder and action
Wondering about each day does things to us.
- It keeps cynicism at bay
- It helps us connect with and not just consume each day
- It helps us slow down and prioritise what's important
but it also leads to action.
I was with a friend who is an environmental activist a couple of years back and he said to me:
"No one will do anything about the environment becuase they are nagged or guilt-tripped into it. Any action towards sustainability will come from genuine wonder about what is already here. Once you love something, you will naturally want to look after it."
That stuck with me because it made me think about the root cause for any environmental action I was taking. Was I using my bag for life because I had fallen in love with the earth or because I felt I had to?
I just finished reading a book called Blue Wonder. Blue Wonder is a bunch of word pictures from the oceans. The author Frauke Bagusche has spent a lifetime researching sea creatures and the way they behave and here she has compiled them all into a beautiful catalogue.
Did you know that clownfish change from male to female when another female dies? Or that the 'lightbulb' on the end of an anglerfish is bio-luminescent bacteria who live there in exchange for food and security? I love that one species of Jellyfish are labelled "immortal" because towards the end of their life, they sink to the bottom of the ocean where they simply "revert" to an earlier form of themselves and return to the waters for a new start. I wonder what the implications might be for humans if we could bottle some of that magic?
Bagusche has a knack for finding points of connection between the life of the sea and our own lives. Coral reefs for instance are a source of medication that we use against Arthritis, HIV and Cancer. Sea squirts, sponges and even snails all produce toxins for different reasons which can potentially help the health of humans.
My favourite chapter has such a good name and it's the first in the book. "the secret global domination of plankton." Love it. Apparently, if you were to swallow 4 cups of seawater during a swim, you would also ingest
up to 10 million virus particles, 1 billion bacteria cells, 10 million phytoplankton (vegetables) and 10 thousand zooplankton (animals)
Plankton is taken from the Greek word "wanderer" or "drifter". The big takeaway for me was that these little guys were responsible for over HALF the world's supply of Oxygen. Trees get all the attention, but it seems there is another hero hard at work in the sea.
There is a heap of fascinating snapshots of animal and plant life in the sea which is bolstered by intriguing science in the book. I was waiting for the last chapter before it even arrived. The environmental implications for polluting the sea are vast and if we don't act to stop it, the sea will die and as a result, so will we.
I wasn't left with a guilt trip after reading this. Just an impression of a life that is astounding under the water. A place where a little knowledge and curiosity can lead to genuine connection to the world we share.
What might happen if we all wondered a little more? If we slowed down enough to appreciate something every day? What might climate action look like if it didn't feel like we have all been told to tidy our room? Could it instead feel like tending to a treasure?