While my summer reading list (the post originally planned) holds far more books than I might reasonably read word-for-word, I picked up a book on impulse at the library Monday. I brought home Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonders; in starting the first chapter, I realized I had read it before, and this week was exactly the time to rediscover its power.
Kingsolver began the essays in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when she was asked to reflect on what happened, who we are in the narrowest and broadest senses, and where we might be headed. She tackles the most difficult aspects of the world around us and finds bittersweet beauty, time and time again. A sense of loss underscores so many of the essays, yet at the same time hope rises from each one, a pure, quiet, stealthy hope that curls into resolve.
Monday night my daughter had a nightmare. She rarely wants to tell me what they are, does not want to relive the fear. Monday night she insisted on telling me about the bear that chased her, was following her, that she escaped by waking.
Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for giving me the answer that had her turning away with a smile, falling asleep in an instant. In the first piece, Kingsolver reports a news story from Lorestan Province in Iran, October 2001. A sixteen-month-old boy wandered away from a group of children being watched by a while the parents worked in the fields. The child was not in the village, was not found in the nearby villages. The parents insisted on extending the search; the father took a group of men to the mountains, where they search, moving five kilometers away from where the boy was last seen. They pass a cave and hear a noise. Entering the cave, they find the boy, curled up against a mother bear. The bear apparently had lost its cub and was heavy with milk. Rather than eating or ignoring the skinny hairless creature that came her way, the bear took the boy home, fed him, kept him warm.
Is the story true? If we can believe local sources, yes; the story was printed in reputable media outlets. It doesn't matter. The story I read that evening was the precise story my daughter needed to hear that night, the precise story I needed to hear this week.
Word of local and international tragedies filtered in around the appearance of bright buntings and neatly clipped lawns. With Kingsolver's essays in my thoughts, I absorbed and carried the news in a different way. As my way of celebrating the Fourth this year, I want to honor small wonders in an intentional way. I want to take time to appreciate the natural beauty outside my door, the ocean and the trees, to laugh aloud at the chipmunks scrabbling into my downspouts and the wild turkeys bobbing their heads as though in deep conversation as they stalk along the road. As people gather, here and there, I want to notice courtesies extended without thought, and remember to comment aloud on acts of kindness. I want to think of Lorestan and know that anything is possible when we slow down and see with fresh eyes, so that the bear -- real or imagined -- is something we learn to approach without fear.
May you always recognize and treasure the small wonders in your life, too!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007