Copyright © 2004 Henrietta W. Hay
A Sense of Wonder
April 16, 2004
Yesterday was a wonderful day, one that I will never forget. As I
thought about it I wondered how I was so lucky as to reach 90 while so
many of the friends of my youth did not. And while I was wondering, I
remembered a column I wrote on wonder back in 1996. Here is a part of
One of the best things about being a Little Old Lady is finding that
the sense of wonder was not lost after all. It has been there all the
Forty years ago Rachel Carson wrote, "A child's world is fresh and new
and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that
for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is
beautiful and awe-inspiring is dimmed and even lost before we reach
I wonder at the miracle of a humming bird weighing less than an ounce,
which can fly nonstop 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. And in the
same universe is an exploding star, 7000 light years away, which was
first recorded by Chinese astronomers in 1054. Ounce for ounce, I
wonder which is more powerful.
I wonder how two tiny, helpless infants became the two fine men who are
my sons. Did it happen molecule by molecule or protein particle by
protein particle? Or, as it seems to me now, did it happen in the blink
of an eye?
We live on the bottom of an ocean. The water has been gone for
millions of years and the ocean floor is now desert, but remnants of the
sea remain. When he was a little boy, son John returned home from a
hike up the Book Cliffs with his pockets full of sea shells. Sea shells
on the sea shore in the desert? I still wonder what our ocean looked
like then, and how those tiny shells survived intact for several million
I still wonder that my last Siamese cat, Antigone, looked exactly like
the stylized drawings of cats from ancient Egypt. How could a blood
line stay so pure over 2000 years? I wonder whether the conversation
she shared with me daily at 5:00 am was the same as that which one of
her ancestors used to awaken Cleopatra.
I wonder whether there is really such an unbelievable animal as the
giraffe, or whether it is, as I suspect, a figment of my imagination.
I wonder how a flock of geese (or is it a gaggle?) selects the front
goose to lead the V.
Some days I wonder whether the moon really is made of green cheese. Can
there really be a pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow? Nah, probably
Scientists have explained most of these things and I believe them. I am
a rational soul. But the awe is still there, the sense of newness, the
sense of wonder. Even today after all these years, I wonder how it all
holds together - the tiny bird, the giraffe, the million year old
ocean, the planet itself, and all the stars out there. I wonder at
its unbelievable beauty and mystery. And in 2004 I am afraid for it.
I agree with Rachel Carson. "If I had influence with the good fairy
who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should
ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so
indestructible that it would last throughout life."