Day 29: Doves on a Double Date

On a walk, I thought I saw a single pair of doves cozying up on a tall fence. But when I checked my photo, there were four. ❤

I love doves as spiritual messengers. I used to wear a dove necklace of the bird holding an olive branch in its beak. Seeing four somehow felt wonderful, a sprinkle more than just the two.

Day 28: Reading Celebrity Poems Aloud

Today was one of those days…..right after I had a *surpluss* of wonder yesterday, today I was left with the question, “What on earth brought me wonder today?” Life is like that, hills, valleys, ups, downs. Today was nothing special as days go.

But last night was! And reflecting on THAT brings me wonder today. Last night I left my very cozy comfort zone and read OUT OF GENRE (Creative Writing lingo). Meaning, I specialize in Creative Nonfiction which is prose writing and last night I read mostly funny poems about celebrities. People laughed when they were supposed to laugh, and it warmed my goofy heart.

Then tonight as I asked the question aloud: what’s brought me wonder today?

I looked from the couch and saw two boys building Toy Story puzzles. There is delight in boys I love playing…and in celebrity poems.

Reading @TheStonewall

Day 27: The World is For You

I’ve been thinking a lot about how wonder is not quite what I hypothesized it as: deep and accessible. This experiment has complicated that definition and challenged it. I think of wonder as small surprises, natural delights, the changing of time, growth. But overall, today this phrase came to me: The World is For You….Not Against You.

What do I mean by that?

I was trying to pick just one wonderful thing that happened today, and my mind was moving like a spider across a web, trying to pick just one. So I will share them, chronologically.

At 6:45 am, my son knocked on my door. He sleeps in a crib and I’ve been scooping him up out of his crib every morning for 3 years and eleven days. The knock made me pause. My boy was getting bigger. He was a monkey and could climb out of his crib easily, but even in his athletic ability, he still called my name in the morning from his room. Him knocking startled and delighted me. I told him to jump in my bed and get some more rest. I wasn’t ready for this moment, yet, I was. Of course I was. But in a way I was sad to realize my son wouldn’t need me in the ways I’d been accustomed to. But I was delighted by his independence, his growth, his joy to come and find me.

At 10:00 am, I entered a fairly empty TJ Maxx looking for thank you cards to send to everyone who so lovingly bought my son a birthday gift and/or attended his third birthday party. I know handwritten thank you cards are so old school, but I love them. However, once inside TJ Maxx one cannot just buy the desired item one came for then leave. (Cardinal rule!) I stumbled upon an orange Nike Oklahoma State hat…..normally $25, on sale for $6. This was a moment of wonder to me. I’d been wanting a hat, there the hat sat, on the shelf, waiting.

At 4:45 pm, I was on a jog. Well. It was more of a walk than a job because it had been cold and I had been busy so I hadn’t gone as frequently. When I run I play Spotify music from my phone that cozies up inside an athletic fanny pack. And as I was running, the birds chirped like it was spring, a melody, their own song. They were louder than my music and I attuned my ear to listen to just them. Before iPhones and digital music and cassette players — there were the birds. To sing and sing and sing some more.

So, world: how do I pick which wonder? Perhaps a side effect of this experiment is noticing wonder more, subconsciously. And by seeing more than one wonder a day, I affirm that the world is on my side. I can look at the small three moments today and see this to be true.

the hat!
My awesome child (right) reading at school…also wonderful.

Day 26: Can Leaves Just Rake Themselves?

Today was a really sad day — a plane of 9 crashed in Calabasas, CA — on the plane was LA Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. A lot are assuming there were other kids with their parents aboard the helicopter. It’s striking how piercing these moments are — for not just the sports world, but the entire world. We have been shook. These things aren’t supposed to happen and when they do, it’s devastating.

So today’s wonder happened with humor, grace, patience — while raking leaves. The leaves in the front yard seemed to have been given steroids. They kept showing up, about a feet deep, the bottom layer was wet. Bennett and I tried to tackle them, making multiple mounds. There had to be over a million leaves in the yard. It made me wonder: what did people do with leaves before rakes? They didn’t disintegrate fast enough. It also made me think about how miraculous a tree is, to grow all those leaves back.

Sending love to the people who lost their lives today on that helicopter, and sending strength to the families they left behind.

Day 24: Grief is Healing in Motion

Today I began again. I decided to dedicate every Friday to writing my book. It’s a memoir and it requires a deep dive into a story that still brings me grief. “It’s so hard,” I told my husband on the phone. Last summer, I wrote a funny novel. However, writing about your life warrants deeper more complex and un-finished emotions. But it is worthy work, and that is why I do it.

Tonight, my friend, Tanya, who is also writing a memoir about illness and family, similar topics of my own book, sent me this beautiful article titled, “Grief is Healing in Motion.”

I’ve copied and pasted it here. It’s short and full of wonder. Grief is motion, grief is love.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Grief is the response to a broken bond of belonging. Whether through the loss of a loved one, a way of life, or a cherished community, grief is the reaction to being torn from what you love. As Martín Prechtel teaches, the words for grief and praise are the same in the Tz’utujil language because you can only grieve what you have dearly loved.

We grieve the loves we’ve lost. We grieve our abilities vanishing through illness or age. We grieve the loss of faith in our religion. We grieve our children leaving home. We grieve the paths we didn’t walk. We grieve the family we never had. We grieve the suffering of the planet. But while grief may look like an expression of pain that serves no purpose, it is actually the soul’s acknowledgment of what we value. Grief is the honour we pay to that which is dear to us. And it is only through the connection to what we cherish that we can know how to move forward. In this way, grief is motion.

Artwork by Inhyuk Jo

Yet in our culture, we are deeply unskilled with grief. We hold it at a distance as best we can, both in ourselves and in each other, treating it as, Joanna Macy says, like “an enemy of cheerfulness.” There is unspoken shame associated with grief. It is sanctioned in very few places, in small doses, for exceptional occasions such as death and tragedy. Beyond that, it can feel dangerous and weak. Perhaps because we fear we’ll drown in our despair, or because it means falling apart in a world which values ‘holding it together’ above all else. But grief plays an essential role in our coming undone from previous attachments. It is the necessary current we need to carry us into our next becoming. Without it, we may remain stuck in that area of our life, which can limit the whole spectrum of our feeling alive.

Grief is the expression of healing in motion. As you make the seemingly bottomless descent, it helps to remember that grief is the downpour your soul has been thirsting for. Because what remains hidden for too long doesn’t change. It is calcified in place, often sealed by shame, left untouched and forgotten by time. But when it can finally come into the open to be seen, it is exposed to new conditions and it begins to move. It rises on a salty geyser of tears, sometimes sung to the surface by a terrific moan, streaming down our cheeks until it moistens the soil where we stand, preparing us for new growth.

Have you ever noticed how beautiful a person is after they’ve wept? It’s as if they are made new again by the baptism of tears. Indeed, when something stuck can be released through grief, we are freeing up a greater capacity to love.”

Day 23: Clouds that Make You Stop What You’re Doing

Today was cold. It’s been cold. Winter is here.

3:30 PM: Wind whips across my cheeks, I pull my hands deep into my pockets, keep my head down. But the way the sun glares, just bright enough, for a brief moment, has me stop. The clouds and sun demand to be seen, peaking out behind the oldest building on campus and desolate trees. I obey the command to briefly stop, take the scene in.

Day 21: When a Surgery Goes Better than Expected

The washing machine hums. My wet hair coils in an orange towel atop my head. Red flannel pajamas wrap around my legs. Today has been a Tuesday. A regular Tuesday. School, work, teaching, meetings, stopping by Sprouts and picking up tortilla chips and cheese and pinto beans to make nachos, making nachos and rice and guacamole at home, stopping at the corner gas station to buy cold Chardonnay I never get to, baby gets a bath, baby goes to bed, Nick and I collapse on couch, washing machine still on, still loud.

An average day.

But today I received a text message from a family friend who also happens to be my brother, Gavin’s, nurse. Nurse P. She had to undergo a surgery and was afraid of what might happen during the surgery.

But today, she sent a group message to my sisters and I, and it warmed me, made me believe in the gift of wonder in ordinary days. She writes:”Courtney, I have found wonder from days before the surgery all of a sudden I felt peaceful, I was no longer in constant fear of the unknown, in every person who has taken care of me, in all the visitors I had…I’m so full of happiness and I feel incredibly blessed. Once again thank you for cheering me on. Xoxo.”

The surgery went exceptionally well, better than doctors may have predicted. That’s wonder — a gift, a sense of peace, the arms of love.