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Cultivating Curiosity: Wild Wonder in an Ordinary Life

Emily Dean


Do you remember the curiosity of childhood? The one where we asked a hundred odd questions a day about caterpillar fuzz and why we don’t eat grass and what’s God and why did our feet have toes and not fingers. That curiosity when summer days stretched long with endless bouts of it until mothers found themselves collapsing over couches because they simply couldn’t bear one more “Mommy, why…”

Do you remember that?

The world was simultaneously so small and so big that as we looked on from our tiny bodies we couldn’t help but question it all with overwhelming wonder.

When I remember that bursting in my chest, that endless delight in the world around me, I can’t help but feel something missing now as I clip through my adult life with all the world’s knowledge at my fingertips, instantaneous connection just a click away. And I wonder if all the anxiety, occasional boredom, and general wariness of life find origin in my childhood self shifting away from a soft curiosity toward frantic efforts to mute the sighs, stop the eye rolls, learn the social cues, and fit in with the rest.

This year I want to return to that curiosity again. I want to be mindful, present, and aware. I want to feel my chest bursting again when I walk through the trees or stand in a twilight snowfall.

Do you ever feel a similar longing? Do you ever wonder if we’re missing something magical in the ordered chaos of adulthood?

Perhaps curiosity can lead the way and wild, wild, wild wonder can restore to us the mystery and beauty of our amazingly ordinary lives. If you’d like to join, here’s where I seek to start each day as I attempt to chase after curiosity in my own life:

Ask “why?”

This is one we must return to often—not to ask why in judgment or rebellion but with an open curiosity truly intent on understanding. Behind every existence, thought, feeling, being are whole worlds of information and beauty waiting to be uncovered if we can simply have courage to ask why.

Listen intently.

As you listen, don’t do so with the intent of formulating a response. Simply listen to learn, to be filled with wonder. The world, people, nature—they all need more of our ears and less of our words. Be brave enough to simply be silent and listen.

Move slowly.

When’s the last time you moved through your day with purpose? Full schedules and endless commitments aren’t the mark of fulfilment, especially if they take away the ability to be wooed into awe at the gifts that fill daily life. If you’ve never moved slowly, start small. Perhaps it’s taking a 10-minute evening walk a few times a week. Maybe instead of ordering takeout for dinner, you slow down and labor over a stove. Magic happens in these small, slow moments. Give yourself room to notice them.

Look again.

After asking why, after listening intently, after slowing down, look again. What did you miss the first time? Return again and again to the site of wonder whether it be a place, a feeling, a person, a moment. When you think you’ve exhausted your curiosity, look again.

Above all, be kind in your curiosity. Be kind to yourself, to nature, to strangers, to new ideas.

My hope is for 2019 to be the year we rediscover ourselves and our worlds as children who, being so filled with curiosity, can’t help but ask yet another question, lag behind a few more steps, and rest a little while longer in wonder.

Article by Angelina Danae | Photography by Madeline Long