Some of you have mentioned that you’re keeping a Curiosity Journal, as well. Leave your link in the comments so that we can visit and enjoy your weekly review.
Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones includes a chapter on Paying Attention, exploring themes within that broader topic.Waiting.During dinner at family camp, someone asked if I had a new writing project in the works. Several couples were sitting around the table, and all eyes were on me, waiting for my response.”Well, I have an idea,” I began, “and I want to write it, but I…I can’t explain it, but I just don’t feel like God has given me the go-ahead. I don’t know why, but I’ve found that if I move ahead on an idea before God says ‘now,’ it’s just a bunch of wasted words. So, no. I don’t have a project in the works. I’m just waiting.”They nodded. Though they weren’t writers, they seemed to understand what it means to wait on God.Luci Shaw seems to understand, too, and shares that the Psalms are full of waiting. She cites Psalm 33:20, “Our soul waits for the LORD” and Psalm 27, “I shall always wait in patience…take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 130:6, “My soul waits for the Lord…” and Psalm 5:3, “I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”That’s where I’m at on the writing project. I’ve laid my requests before the Lord and wait in expectation.”Waiting,” Shaw observes, “seems to be an inevitable part of the human condition, an inevitable part of the creative life” (Shaw 118).I’d rather wait than rush ahead and regret the results.I may be waiting, but while I wait, I’m paying attention and taking lots of notes.Noticing.Now that I’m trying to improve my photography skills, I’m slowly beginning to notice more moments, more details.A student asked Shaw, “Don’t you get tired of noticing things?” In response, Shaw quoted Annie Dillard (from an essay written for Life magazine):
We are here to abet Creation and to witness it, to notice each thing, so each thing gets noticed…so that Creation need not play to an empty house. (Shaw 199)
I never thought of that before, the idea of bearing witness to Creation and noticing each thing…through the lens, through description, through a moment’s observation with the human eye.”We cannot take in the whole universe at once,” Shaw says, so we take it in one detail at a time:
Every day gives us new chances for small discoveries, ways to view some commonplace object from a fresh angle…to recognize what we already know but still need to learn, to detect the extraordinary in the ordinary. A move in the direction of this kind of awareness is a move toward a fresh appreciation of our richly detailed universe–the Creator’s handiwork. The prime motivation for this exercise is curiosity; the prime requisites are time and focused attentiveness. (Shaw 119-120)
Small things.My friend and colleague Claire Burge sent a link to a video called “Learn.” I watched it and wrote back, “Learn! Yes! Would love to live this big! I try, in small ways, daily…”I’d love to live and write about big events, big outings, big learning opportunities in which I learn and grow and celebrate.But my life is mostly about small, simple, daily decisions and interactions. My big…is small.In Scripture, Shaw says, small things often led to large consequences: the fruit from the tree in Eden, the dove with its olive branch, the voice calling to Samuel in the night, the widow’s oil, the widow’s mite, the coin in the fish’s mouth, a seed, a pearl, a sparrow, a hair—each hair—on your head, my head.In the depths of a person, a big story is playing out. “Never despise the power of small things, like seeds, to transform the landscape of the heart” (Shaw 122).
As Luci Shaw reminded me, every day gives me new chances for small discoveries, ways to view some commonplace object from a fresh angle…to move toward a fresh appreciation of our richly detailed universe—the Creator’s handiwork.Before leaving for work Tuesday morning, the Belgian Wonder popped in and announced that some “impressive mushroom-like fungus” was growing off the side of the mulch pile.Luci Shaw said that the prime motivation for learning to pay attention is curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to investigate some impressive fungus? (Don’t answer that; I like to imagine you would run out the door with me.)I moved in close, trying to capture the texture, form, and subtle colors of this odd colony that popped out overnight after long-awaited rain.From the Falls to fungus…all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…it’s all part of God’s Creation, His handiwork.And I bear witness to it.
It’s more challenging to move toward “a fresh appreciation of our richly details universe—the Creator’s handiwork” when witnessing the gruesome reality of the food chain plays out in our back yard these past few weeks.Though cicada killer wasps look large enough to sting and stun Shrek, they are relatively harmless to humans. The males have no stinger at all, I’ve learned, and the female uses hers almost exclusively to paralyze cicadas to feed to their young. Rarely will she sting a human.These giant insects fly low, hovering just a few feet above the ground, swooping over, around, and into nests they’ve dug into the soil. I’ve watched one carry a cicada to the nest opening and drag it into the shadowy depths to be consumed by the larvae.We step gingerly to the garden these days, avoiding these piles of dirt that peek through the grass like land mines spread across the yard.By the way, if you’ve never seen a cicada’s shell, I happened to find one stuck to the side of our back porch.And if you’ve never seen a cicada, well, I found one of those, too.And if you’ve never heard a cicada, you can hear a recording here. Interestingly, we’ve not heard that ubiquitous, almost deafening, summer sound this year. More wasps, fewer cicadas.
So, how about that stock market?
I’ve laid my requests before the Lord and wait in expectation.Works Cited:
- Shaw, Luci. Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007. Print.
- Question mark image: “Question Proposed” photo by Ethan Lofton. Used under a Creative Commons license via Flickr.com.
- All other photos by Ann Kroeker.