Musings on wow-fade
by Ken Rummer for Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service
Does wonder have a shelf life?
Does it come with a best-if-used-by date?
I’m asking because of the mountains.
Just to be clear, we don’t have mountains in Iowa. Our elevation leader, Hawkeye Point, only makes it up to 1,670 feet. We have bluffs, we have knolls, we have hills. But no mountains.
So massive granite pressing into cloud above the tree line — that gets my attention. As it did on a recent trip to Alaska.
The Rockies from an airplane porthole. Mt. Rainier out the hotel window. Denali through the curved glass of the train car.
And the sightings continued. Saw-toothed peaks. Mist-shrouded heights. Big mountains still wearing snow in mid-summer. Likely places, à la Moses, for a rendezvous with God.
Mountains embracing glaciers. Mountains with their feet in the sea. Mountains behind other mountains catching the orange light of late evening.
But somewhere along the way, about day 12 of the trip, I realized I was losing interest in tall peaks. Astonishing views started to look like just more snowy mountains. Not that unusual anymore. Not that exciting. The mountains were fading into the background like wallpaper you’ve lived with a little too long.
Did the wonder reach its expiration date?
I once saw a man sitting in his driveway. Just beyond his back yard, Lake Huron stretched to the horizon looking blue and beautiful. But the man wasn’t looking at the big water. He was facing the street out front, reading a newspaper.
I’ve judged that stranger rather harshly over the years, but now I’m realizing that he and I share the same affliction. We both suffer from the waning of wonder. As the once-astounding becomes commonplace, we no longer notice the wow-worthy, even in our own backyard.
But maybe that can change.
The poet T. S. Eliot wrote:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” (“Little Gidding,” 1942)
I arrive where I started my mountain tour, at home. What would it be like to see this place, this life, as if for the first time?
Taking a look around, I’m finding a few wonders that have gotten lost in the wallpaper:
Flesh and bone turning food into energy and breath into life.
Light leaving distant stars ages and ages ago, only just arriving.
The snapping turtle laying her eggs on the bank above the creek.
Tiny factories in every green leaf making tree food out of sunshine.
The marvelous human being still sharing life and love with me.
The way I’ve come to see it, newness fades but wonder remains,
waiting for rediscovery by eyes that see anew.
What are you noticing? Is there something wow-worthy you want to reclaim from the invisibility of the everyday?
The Rev. Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts may be viewed here.
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