My head is tilted back, mouth open wide in awe. My four-year-old eyes fill with wonder as I watch tiny, reflective drops of light dance across our 1980’s popcorn ceiling.
“What are they?” I whisper, afraid that if I speak too loudly they may vanish.
My mom, sitting on the steps beside me, watches them in awe as well. “Whatever they are,” she whispers back, “they’re magical, don’t you think?”
“Yes…Magical,” I answer. And then, all of a sudden, I know what they are.
“They’re fairies,” I decide. “Fairies from a far, far away land.”
The two of us sit and talk about these magical fairies, making up stories about them until, without warning, they all disappear as quickly as they arrived.
“Can we sit here tomorrow and see if they come back to visit us?” I beg my mom.
Of course she agrees, and the next day, our other-worldly visitors reappear.
This goes on a few days before I figure out those beams of light aren’t really fairies; they’re simply the reflection the afternoon sun makes as it glints across the face of my mom’s wristwatch. But despite discovering the truth, every day I still beg my mom to sit on the steps next to me so she can make those fairies appear. And like clockwork, those luminescent fairies from a magical far away land keep showing up to dance and twirl and leap across their off-white, popcorn-cloud-filled sky.
Experiencing the wonder of those sun-drenched afternoons alongside those magical fairies and my equally magical mother are some of my earliest — and fondest — memories. The nostalgia those memories spark create in me a strong desire to recapture that wonder. But how do you live a wonder-filled life — especially in the age where every man, woman, and child has the answer (or at least an answer) to nearly every question right in their front pocket?
* * *
Wonder is defined as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. Being able to feel wonder is something that makes us uniquely human.
When people are asked what fills them with wonder, the responses come quick. I know this, because I reached out to family, friends, and followers this week and asked them this simple question. One notification after another lit up my phone, appearing as quickly as those fairies had so very long ago.
We all know what wonder feels like. As children, wonder comes easy. It echoes in every new, wonderful, amazing thing we learn and discover. But as we get older, wonder tends to take a backseat as we go about the routine of our days. Sometimes it simply gets lost in the shuffle. So if your wonder-meter is pointing toward empty these days, here are 7 Simple Ways to Fill Your Life With Wonder.
7 Simple Ways to Fill Your Life With Wonder
- Go outside. Few things compare to being surrounded by the beauty of our world. From lush forests and tall mountains and deep oceans to sparse prairies and vast canyons and fields filled with wildflowers, wonder is all around.
- Spend time with a child. To a child, everything is filled with wonder — from rainbows and puddles and piles of leaves, to snowmen and Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, to pennies and breakfast buffets and piles of dirt. So hang out with them, no matter what they’re doing. They’re bound to discover wonder, and you can be sure it will be infectious.
- Be creative. When you create something, as silly as it sounds, you often feel like you’ve just done something magical. And of course, where there’s magic, wonder isn’t far behind.
- Try something new. When you step outside your comfort zone and try something new, there is often an element of surprise and wonder, not only in the things you learn, but in finding out that you are capable of so many incredible, wonderful things.
- Slow down. Take the time to notice the wonder that can be found in ordinary things (like dandelions or sparklers or new flowers or a fresh cup of coffee or a newly made bed) and ordinary actions (like someone else’s hand in yours or the way a hug can make your heart soar or hearing or saying the words I love you or Thank you).
- Travel. What better way to experience wonder than to explore the world? When we travel, we are able to revel in the discovery new places, experience different terrains, meet new people, and enjoy different foods. Travel also helps you create wonderful memories that you are able to cherish forever.
- Be kind. If you look closely enough, you can find wonder in kindness, generosity, and compassion. When we practice being kind or are the recipient of kindness — especially from someone we just met — we experience gratitude, and in gratitude, wonder can be found.
* * *
Zoey’s head tilts back. Her mouth is open wide, and her beautiful blue, shining eyes are filled with wonder. I peer into my daughter’s mouth as my finger wiggles one of her bottom teeth. I, too, am filled with wonder: specifically wonder as in, How does she already have a loose tooth? I feel like I just gave birth to her yesterday.
“Youth knowth whath thith meanth, righth?” Zoey tries to say.
Before I can say answer, she pulls my finger away and beats me to the punch.
“The TOOTH FAIRY is going to come visit me!” she squeals, starting to jump up and down. But then, as Zoey’s own finger absently finds the tooth and wiggles it, her bright smile quickly fades from her face.
“What’s wrong, peanut?” I ask. “This is exciting!”
“I know, but… well, she only comes when I’m asleep, right? I won’t get to meet her,” Zoey says, looking downright forlorn.
The tiny, magical fairy memories of my childhood start dancing in front of me, and all of a sudden, I have an idea.
“Right. You do have a good point. That’s the one drawback of the Tooth Fairy,” I say as I nod in agreement. “But did you know that sometimes, if you look around at just the right time of day, you can see some of her friends?”
Zoey’s eyes light up again and her smile returns. “Really?” she asks. “When? And where do they come from.”
“We’ll try to find them tomorrow,” I say, my smile matching her own. “And they come from a far, far away land.”
The next day, the afternoon sun finds the two of us crouched in a quiet corner of our living room, a spot where the light streams in just how I need it to. I tilt my wrist just enough that the glass from my watch scatters a hundred reflections delicately across the ceiling. I point up with my free hand.
“Look, Zoey! They’re here!”
Zoey looks up, and I look over at her. A tiny tear escapes from the corner of her eyelashes.
“They’re so beautiful,” she whispers.
While she is filled with the wonder of those fairies, I am filled with the wonder of watching her experience that wonder. Together we bask in this sparkling, shimmering moment, this moment where magic is happening, this magic that we are creating together.
In this moment, I’m reminded that wonder is all around us, we just have to stop and notice it: It is found in grand, awesome, amazing things — like deep oceans and endless star-filled skies and vast canyons and snow-capped mountains. It can be found in tiny, fragile things — like the ten perfect fingers of a newborn or their soft rosebud lips, or in the few notes of a song that crack your heart open wide, or in the outstretched hand of a friend, or in the three little, important words we all long to hear: I love you. And sometimes, when finding wonder in our lives might seem out of reach, we need to remember that we also hold the power to create it ourselves: It can be created in our everyday moments — hidden inside the nostalgia of childhood memories, or in the magic of a nighttime visitor coming to take a tooth for safe-keeping, or in sun-drenched afternoons. Simple memories that — to the untrained eye — might appear to be somewhat ordinary.
But to you, my fellow Nostalgia Seekers, you know they are truly extraordinary.
So remember: Look closer. Look up, look down, look all around. No matter where you are, wonderful, magical things can always be found. Because wonder is here. Wonder is there. Wonder is simply everywhere.
* * *
“Mommy, can we see if they visit us again tomorrow?” Zoey begs. In her voice, I hear my own four-year-old self.
And so, just like my own mother did years ago, I say yes, of course, and the next day, the fairies are back, performing their magical dance. As they move, fluidly and effortlessly, across the ceiling, I smile to myself. It appears they haven’t aged a bit and are as lovely as ever; this realization reveals to me the true beauty of wonder:
It never gets old.
What fills you with wonder? Let us know in the comments!
Week 18 Suggested Reading
A special thanks to all the followers, family, and friends who provided such wonderful inspiration for this week’s 7 Ways to Fill Your Life With Wonder Everyday Nostalgia post. We loved all the feedback, the memories, and the wonder-filled moments you all provided and, because they filled us with such tremendous joy, happiness, and love, how could we not share? There is so much beauty and wonder to be found in this list, and we hope you enjoy reading it just as much as we did creating it.
Music. People. Relationships. Creativity. Kindness. Nature. Animals. Vastness of space. Finding beauty in the everyday. Travel and adventure. Children. Grandchildren. The power of the ocean and how little we are in comparison. Our heartbeats. The ocean. The forest. The night sky. Newborn babies. Watching toddlers and animals explore their worlds. Tidepools. Dragonflies. Sunrises. Sunsets. Watching children revel in curiosity. Clouds. The breeze. The Aurora Borealis. Pure white snow. Love. Springtime. Birdsong. Understanding and intimacy. Innocence and naivety. God’s abundance and love. Hatching chicken chicks. Mountain views. Thunderstorms. Snowflakes. The crack of a ball against a bat. Sunsets over the ocean. Watching children laugh and joke with one another. Amazing symphonies. Music performed in cathedrals. Snowshoeing through quiet woods. Butterflies. The sky. Walking a dog. Delicious sweets. Watching a fire burn. A baby being born. Christmastime. Afternoon sun in autumn. Color. Birch trees. Hummingbirds. The first sip of coffee. Knowing joy doesn’t have to cost money. Finding the perfect gift for someone. Sitting on the couch with my cat. Autumn. The moon. The beach. Talking to God. Cocoons. Knowing that the cardinals in my yard are really loved ones that have passed away. Standing on the beach watching the waves of the ocean. Standing somewhere very dark watching the stars in the sky. Standing down below watching up on the mountains. The sound of raindrops. The ever-ending kindness of special people. Listening to a baby babble. Watching the rain on a lake or puddle and lightning. The universe. Watching a child discover something new. Endless rivers. Vast prairies. Beautiful fields. Rainbows. Sunshine. Time. The solar system. How fast children grow up. White fluffy clouds. Confetti. The tooth fairy. Kaleidoscopes. Sprinkles. The feel of sunshine on your face. The moment an airplane takes off. Laughter. Hugs. The salty taste of tears. Being loved for who you are. Life.
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.