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Adventure & Insight

February 2, 2009

Watching my Darling Daughter experience life is just about one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Not only is she very articulate and expressive, but she seems to grasp things quickly.  Because she is so sanguine, she draws others into her wonderment, and we all seem to experience the event as if it were the first time.

I grew up with a healthy sense of wonder and fascination with beauty.  This was honed by my mother and my grandfather, her father.  They were explorers by nature, loved people, and loved to create through the arts.  Both of them regularly took me on adventures, tours, little known way-spots, and introduced me to fascinating people.

Last week I took my newly four year-old daughter with me to a meeting in NW Portland.  Because it was mostly a social meeting and because our weekly swim date would be right after the meeting, it made sense to invite her.  Her immediate response was, “Yeah!  Because I’m FOUR!”  I chuckled.

The whole trip was fascinating to her

The whole trip was fascinating to her.  It was snowing that morning, so the drive into Portland took longer than usual and we were running about 30 minutes late.  I took it in stride and enjoyed the ride.  She pointed out waterfalls, cows, ships on the river, sounds from the tires and slush, things in the car, and on and on.  It was a running narrative.  John Madden would have been proud.

Of course this narrative slowed down the obvious tasks of getting out of the car, zipping up coats, and even walking to the curb.  Not only was she excited to go to one of Daddy’s meetings, and to be with Daddy, but it was downtown, in Portland! and it was SNOWING!!

As we walked to the corner of NW 21st and Marshall, a four-way stop, all the cars paused and waited for this man and little girl to cross.  Just as I was assured it was safe and we were hand-in-hand, I went to step off the curb.  It was right then that Darling Daughter spotted something fascinating.  Most likely it was the comparison between our footprints in the snow.  I felt the pressure from the busy morning commuters, I didn’t want to make them wait any longer than necessary, and I was already late.

But without hesitation, I decided my DD’s wonderment was more important than other people’s frustration with us.  Not that I usually go out of my way to frustrate people – intentionally, but at this moment, fostering wonderment in my daughter was more important.

A side-benefit was that she was fostering wonderment in me.

As we walked into Starbucks, she soaked it all in.  The place was abuzz with activity, people, and Daddy’s friendly friend.  She was amazed, proud of her grown-up status, and just thrilled to be alive.  My buttons were popping.  DD wanted to try everything, she wanted to taste everything, and she wanted to comment on everything – I was able to limit her comments by about 25%. 😉

Yesterday I stopped in at the WalMart in Orchards.  There were a couple of things I needed to pick up.  As I walked in I encountered a young family in the express check-out lane.  Mommy was monitoring their “stuff” and daddy was holding a little boy very closely.  I was stuck by the insight that mommies and daddies often hold their kids differently and for different reasons.

Mommies tend to hold the kiddos because they have to and daddies because they can’t help themselves.  Mommies, because they are generally the primary caretakers, will be multitasking while holding the kids.  Dads, because they don’t get much quality time with these little lovebugs, will snuggle with their kids whenever they have the opportunity to hold them.  I shared this with The Wife last night, and she agreed; but, she said, there are times she just snuggles too.

When I hold my kids, I just hold them close

When I hold my son, and my daughter when she was younger, I just hold him close.  I kiss his ears, his cheek, rub my face in his hair, and just look into his eyes.  I just can’t get enough of him.  I also whisper in his ear about my love for him; “Daddy loves you.  I’m right here for you.  I love you very much,” I whisper.  I used to do the same with my daughter, and I still do when I carry her sleepy self to bed at night – or both kids when they wake up crying, or have fallen and hurt themselves.

I stopped to use the restroom before I began the hour-long drive back to Rainier.  In the restroom was another dad with his three-year-old daughter.  She, much like my daughter, was full of questions about the public restroom:

“What’s that?”

“It’s a sink.”

“What is that daddy?”

“A hand dryer.”

“Can we use it?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you already dried your hands with a paper towel.”

And so on…

As I drove home, most of the preceding thoughts ran through my head.  I also began to wonder when we loose our sense of wonderment?  When do we lose the innocence that causes us to care?  When do we quit being excited by our surroundings and the things around us.

I come from long lines of explorers and pioneers in most branches of my family.  Most North Americans do.  There are a couple of ancestors whom I am most proud, and the heritage and legacy they passed on rocks gently in my soul.  Some of my best experiences have been explorations of adventure.  Like a child, I took in the sights, the sounds, and the silence of a Glacier Bay Alaska night – filled with aurora borealis, howling wolves, a pod of whales in the bay, and a full, crisp moon.  That night, and the next morning, were amazing.  But I wonder if I could encounter the same kind of amazement, daily, if I was less cynical and more at peace with the moment.

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I also realize that many of those men and women, were quite driven

Now, more than ever, I am committed to foster amazement, exploration, creativity, and wonderment in myself and others.  More than stopping to smell the roses, what would life be if I noticed the life that others are living and the beauty of that life?  Eastern religions do a great job at teaching us to live in the moment, it’s something that Christianity has virtually dropped from the lexicon.  And yet, it is something that Jesus taught.

In addition to descending from explorers and pioneers, I also realize that many of those men and women, were quite driven.  One has to be driven to sell most of your belongings and load up on a wagon to homestead on the Oregon Coast – a rainy, misty, gray, stormy land – that they had never seen before.  Once arriving, there was no turning back.

My sixth-great-grandfather, John Corbly, lost his first wife and three out of five kids after a retaliatory attack by Native Americans – in Ohio. He later re-married, had another family, and founded several churches in the Ohio River Valley.

My 15th-great-grandfather, Roger Williams, was driven out of Boston for his religious beliefs and later founded Providence, Rhode Island.  It takes drive and determination to overcome the obstacles they faced.  I’ve visited Providence, Roger Williams is a big deal there.

There is a fine balance between drive/determination and living in the moment.  Most of my life I’ve been driven – working 80-100+ hours per week.  I’ve done some amazing things.  I was a race horse and I wanted to be set free to run.  Recently, I’ve realized that I don’t really have it in me to be a race horse any more.  I want to practice more peaceful pursuits.  I want to foster a more healthy approach to life in my family, my kids, and those I lead.

Learning to walk, and savor the moment.  Being filled with wonderment at the people, the places, and palpable around us.  Look, listen, smell, taste, and touch the world around you.  There is beauty.  There is wonderment.  There is much to be explored.

UPDATE: As I was finishing this post, my DD invited me to play a picture/number/coloras game with her.  How could I refuse, especially given what I had just written.  While playing the game, I was reminded of one important adjective I’d left out of the above post: “Joy!”

While playing, talking, listening, watching, seeing, exploring, or wondering, my little Darling Daughter is just filled with joy.  It bubbles out of her and spills on everyone around.  That kind of wondrous joy is just amazing to me.  I want it, I need it, I revel in it.  Just playing a simple game excites her to jump around and dance with pleasure.

When I mentioned how much fun it was to play that game with her, she dropped her sandwich to the plate and ran over to give me a big hug and kiss.

Who among us couldn’t use that kind of joy, wonderment, and insight in our lives?

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