The Sense of Wonder

"'How can I possibly teach my child about nature - why, I don't even know one bird from another!'

father and son

I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel.

If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.

dried out

Once the emotions have been aroused - a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love - then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response.

washed up

Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know that to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate."
Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Sunday evening at the river is the perfect time and place to wander and wonder. From week to week we observe changes along the river. Spiky weeds that have blossomed into flowers. Deep rivets where rainwater from the recent storm eroded the hillside. A line of debris along the shore indicating a drop in the water level.

The air is cool and the rocks radiate warmth long after the sun sets behind the canyon walls. I wonder why we didn't start this tradition sooner. I wonder if the kids will remember our Sunday evenings at the river when they grow up. I wonder what I'll make next Sunday for dinner. I wonder what changes we'll observe next week. I wonder why this rock is smiling.

happy rock

Well, not really. My smile would be set in stone if I spent every day lounging by the river too.


  1. Thanks for reminding me about Rachel Carson, Molly. I'm going upstairs now to get it off the shelf, reread it, and give it to the girls.
    Actually, come to think of it, there was a mini-bio of her in a great book the girls read called "Girls who looked under rocks" (I think), about great female naturalists throughout history.
    As usual, the girls are one step ahead of me.
    Beautiful pictures, these.

  2. rosesmamaJune 08, 2009

    "Our" river is a thousand miles away, and we only get there once a year, but I know a creek that would be willing to substitute . . .


  3. molly, beautiful post...you are a magician with words and families. thanks for putting into words what i feel in my heart. yes, they will remember your sundays down by the river. sherry

  4. do you ever think it is too late to install that sense of wonder? curious. as my kids get older it seems harder yet I want even more for them.

  5. i don't think it's ever too late to develop a sense of wonder. in fact, i don't think i discovered my sense of wonder until very recently. it seems to be contagious - or at least i notice it more in other's now that i've found mine.

  6. maybe the rock got a new waffle iron...lol
    have a great week!

  7. Great post. Love the smiling rock!

  8. i love your top shot.

    that's what nature journals are for...the learning part, even if you have to leave the splendor around you and google what you've found.

    my girls have become the masters of, "i don't know, let's google it".

    the best of both worlds.

  9. I love that picture of your men.
    I thought of you this Sunday - I wonder if they are at the river? - as I worked on a milkshake and sweet potato fries in Berkeley.

  10. Beautiful post. I am sure your children will remember those Sundays by the river and will do the same thing with their children...loved those lines about preparing the soil in early childhood.

    And yes, I agree with you about being able to discover a sense of curiosity at all ages. One of the greatest and most unexpected gifts of motherhood has been to re-discover the world with my children one feather, rock, and crashing wave at a time.

  11. You never. never. NEVER cease to amaze me, Molly.
    This is lovely, deep, rich and loamy... gorgeous and true as true can be.

  12. So true. Loving nature becomes an engine for learning.

  13. The world is certainly a classroom... give children the freedom to explore a field, or a river sit back and watch the wonder, excitement and learning unfold.
    Beautiful pictures, I love your last lines about the smiling rock!! So great : )

  14. thanx for the reminder to bask in the simplicity of exploring outdoors with my children. A beautiful post.

  15. You always have the loveliest photos!

    BTW, stop by my blog for a chance to win a COACH bag!

    Hope all is well!

  16. Love that picture of George and Aidan. Great post! I've been trying to find my "wondering self" more lately too. Now that my kids are older I feel like I have more time to S-L-O-W down and listen. Sad that I didn't realize it sooner. Lost in the moment of motherhood, I guess.

  17. That rock is the best! What a beauty-filled post, your words are like the magic of early summer.... Thank You!

  18. Oh, that rock made me smile along with him. I wish my smile was as permanent as his!


  19. I love this post. Your pictures are fantastic. Are you familiar with Keri Smith? I fell in love with her book "How to be an Explorer of the World". I think you may like it too.. The smiling rock made me think about it..

    From her book:

    Exploration #41 - Found faces. Document any naturally occurring faces you find on your travels.


  20. Yes, yes, love Rachel Carson! I also love what you are doing for your family and yes, do not fear, they will remember those days. My Dad was very much into nature and those times spent with him birding, camping, shell collecting, and such are some of my finest memories. I so hope you took that smiley rock home. It belongs in your house and with your family for sure. Love checking to see what wonderful photos you have on your blog from day to day.

  21. I love the smiley rock.

  22. Thank you for your beautiful inspiraing and poweful words. I love your blog, it touches my spirit so I can touch my family and friends.. . again thank you!!

  23. Lovely post - a perfect way to enjoy nature - just observing the season and the influences on it!

  24. Oooh, that rock makes my fingers itch. I would want to take it home but yet it doesn't seem right to do so.

    Beautiful pictures. =)

  25. This is a very beautiful post. Thank you. I need to remember yes we are now in the time to prepare the soil. I love it.

    Thank you also for stopping by my blog. I would love to book mark your blog and visit often if you don't mind. Take care.

  26. What a great day. You captured it beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

  27. What a great set of photos. I hope you took the smiling rock home with you. I don't think the canyon would miss it, and if it did, it is just a short trip back for a visit.



email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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