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Keeping Wonder Alive

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Alice rides while Ernie acts as mule Alice rides while Ernie acts as mule

Nature through a baby's eyes, from the Hawk's Nest

I looked to see who was calling as the phone played its tune; it was my stepdaughter, Ana. Answering, I heard, “gaa ma lalala ba ga.” 

“Hi Alice,” I said. Once again I got “gaa lalala ba.”

I thought either nine-month-old Alice is playing with Ana’s phone or Ana is having a very bad morning. 

Soon Ana came on and said “Hello.” 

She was just fine and said she had just turned her back for a second. I must admit I was enjoying my conversation with Alice, even though I was wondering what she was saying.  I’m sure it was, “Let’s go for a hike right now!” 

Ana and Alice are staying a few miles from here while Noah is going to school. I must admit I love having them here while at the same time seeing the family separated pains me. Once again, those polarities of life that I cannot control surface.

The baby and I had gone for a hike that morning, while her mother took care of a few things around the house. There have been several such hikes since they came. Mostly we stay on old logging roads, which are more accommodating for her stroller. However, since it does have bicycle tires it rolls over the rough pretty well. So occasionally, Alice and I take the stroller and do a little “off-roading.” 

She seems to enjoy the bumping and bouncing as we hike the woods behind their place, always conscious of the subtleties of life and lives around her. She hears and reacts to even the smallest bird-songs and follows them when they fly. Whenever she hears animal voices, she immediately focuses on their source. 

Tall grass brushes her cheeks as we roll by, giving her a new experience and a new discovery, and she uses all her senses to capture each one. With a new texture she will first look, then try to feel, and then, of course, try to smell and taste. She tries out her own voice as the wheels bounce over rocks and sticks, hearing how it changes from rough ground to smooth. It sounds like rough ground is more fun to her singing.

Watching her wonder stimulates my own wonder as we trek past dry streambeds, tamarack turning gold and rock faces that rise along our route. 

I think of myself as a rather curious person and I enjoy my curiosity but looking at Alice I see absolute wonder in everything. I am reminded to open all my senses to the world around me, to try, as she does, exploring everything with nothing but wonder. For her, wonder does not have an opposite concept. When I reach that goal, the world gets even more exciting.

I have been in all kinds of nature with people who have years of experience and knowledge of their surroundings, people who serve as guides or teachers of nature. Some are professional; others simply want to be out in it and are willing to share what they know. In each one, I see a similar curiosity as in Alice: they are conscious of all their life; acutely aware of what surrounds them and their presence in it. They see and make mental notes of every sound, movement, or smell just as Alice does.—often with the same wonder, even though years of experience may mean it comes with greater understanding. I like being with these people; it seems all of life is exhilarating for them.  

However, what is so fun with Alice, this is her very first autumn. It isn’t that I am showing someone autumn in Idaho for the first time, I love that too. Instead, I have been given the honor to be part of Alice’s very first fall. Adding to that I get to show her the North Idaho mountains I love so much. 

The curiosity she has now will help open her to the possibilities of the world.  Some feel she is too young to understand, but I believe this fall will be as important as all the rest in her life. This fall, and what she learns, will influence how she sees the world where ever that is. In the process, she will learn some things hurt, others do not taste good and she will learn some are fun and do taste good. And sharing this fall with Alice will be important to me and influence the rest of my life.

I’m sure there will be more time spent learning to touch something new or in a new way and I’m hoping there will be more phone calls while her mom has her back turned, calls that will keep the wonder in my world alive.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

hiking, Alice Huston, wonder, The Hawk's Nest

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