"Wonder gives rise to love; it gives rise to compassion. Were it not for wonder, psychologists surmise we likely would not have these emotions at all.” ~Jeffrey Davis
"Wonder gives rise to love; it gives rise to compassion. Were it not for wonder, psychologists surmise we likely would not have these emotions at all.”
I’m confident that, like me, you notice and have great appreciation for the synchronicities life brings our way. As I welcome in this new year, the word ‘wonder’ has been crossing my path with increasing frequency and it’s getting my attention in the very best of ways. Just this morning a sublime French phrase appeared - l’émerveillent du quotidien - which translates to 'the wonder of the everyday', and it inspired me to open this report with a sense of engaged, open curiosity and presence…in a word - wonder!
All of which brings me to my first book pick…and a reminder to scroll all the way down for my favorite New Year poem by W.S. Merwin…
Tracking Wonder: Reclaiming a Life of Meaning and Possibility in a World Obsessed with Productivity by Jeffrey Davis describes six facets of wonder we can track and foster in our everyday lives; openness and curiosity to boost our creativity, bewilderment and hope to build our fortitude to navigate uncertainty and adversity, and connection and admiration to deepen our relationships in a sometimes divisive world. Expect the unexpected with this book - it’s a lovely reading experience.
I am delighted to recommend tickled: A Commonsense Guide to the Present Moment by Duff McDonald. This is a book intended to help us reframe our contemporary culture’s obsessions with data and prediction into a more viable approach he calls the “science of experience”. In his chapter titled “Always Be Wondering” he writes: “Wondering is not the same as thinking. Wondering is a state of receptivity; not active inquiry or planning. It’s all about spontaneity. When you think too much, you focus on the probable. When you wonder, you stay fixed on the possible. There’s a universe of difference between the two. Keep your mind open and keep asking yourself questions.” I would be hard-pressed to come up with any better single life guidance than that.
The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People by Rachel Wilkerson Miller reminds and helps us to connect with those folks in our lives who mean the most to us with more mutual fulfillment as the soul-nourishing result. Of course, we can’t really show up for others if we aren’t showing up for ourselves first. It’s a process, friends.
Presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman’s new collection of poetry, Call Us What We Carry, shines with reverence, intelligence, and deeply healing beauty. These are poems to read, reflect upon, and cherish.
Another winning collection of poems, I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer, is all about reframing negativity and judgment into empowerment, support, gratitude, and connection. I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use some of that magic!
At Heaven's Door: What Shared Journeys to the Afterlife Teach About Dying Well and Living Better by William J. Peters releases on January 11, but is available for pre-order now. In it, Peters tells his story of how in 2000, while working as an end-of-life therapist volunteer at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco, he had an extraordinary experience as he was reading aloud to a patient: he suddenly found himself floating in midair, completely out of his body. The patient, who was also aloft, looked at him and smiled. The next moment, he found himself return to his body, but the patient never regained consciousness and died. This perplexing and stunning experience led Peters toward the work of developing what he calls ‘shared crossings’ - bearing witness and sharing, in part, another person’s final moments of embodied life. I’m confident that this book will touch your heart, lift your spirits, and leave you wondering about your own journey and those of your loved ones with deeper appreciation and openness.
“We forget the gold. We forget the love and the awareness that’s intrinsic.
We forget who’s looking through the mask …
The whole path of waking up is to remember and realize and trust the gold.”
I tend to shy away from making resolutions, especially at the New Year, but Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky inspired me to rethink that approach and I’m so glad it did. Making the time in our lives for activities that light us up is what she calls ‘Unicorn Space’…the active and open pursuit of creative self-expression in any form that makes you uniquely YOU! I love how she emphasizes that creativity is not optional - it’s essential. Happy sigh!
I’m heartened to see how the subject of trauma (in all its nuanced forms) and how to heal its woundings is making its way into more of our mainstream conversations. Neuroscientist Tracey Shors’ book Everyday Trauma: Remapping the Brain's Response to Stress, Anxiety, and Painful Memories for a Better Life is an exploration of how trauma impacts the brain, especially for women, and how we can learn to heal ourselves. Through big or small events, the potential long-term consequences of trauma include addiction, depression, anxiety, and PTSD - with lasting impact on the brain and the body. By understanding how our brain responds to trauma and developing constructive healing practices we can retrain our brains to enhance our quality of life.
If, like me, you’re a fan of discovering the stories behind a favorite story, then you will appreciate Unearthing the Secret Garden: The Plants and Places that Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett by Marta McDowell. This book is a joy - a beautiful bouquet of photos, illustrations, and botanical paintings, we are gifted with the stories of how the plant worlds have inspired some of our other most beloved authors, including Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickinson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.”
In closing, please enjoy these three special offerings for young and young-at-heart readers:
Micha Archer’s Wonder Walkers follows two curious kids as they embark on a nature adventure fueled by questions such as: Is the sun the world’s light bulb? Is dirt the world’s skin? Are rivers the earth’s veins? Is the wind the world breathing? I wonder…
We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio, author of the beautiful and best-selling novel Wonder, brings us this lovely picture book carrying the message of the power of ‘choosing kind’ with a spare, inspired text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. This is a perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson with illustrations by Nikkolas Smith is a lyrical picture book in verse chronicling the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance and activism in the United States. This book provides an accessible pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of the complexities of American identity.
All of us at Paradise Found wish you and yours the very best and brightest for this coming year.
To the New Year
With what stillness at last you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible