Like joy, and play, those qualities so unadulterated in a childhood, wonder is something that it's easy to lose sight of as adults. In a cynical world it's easy to feel, or be accused of being, naïve, too, if one admits to a sense of wonder as being a driving force in one's life.
But it's a quality that is, perhaps, vital to a life fully lived, and without it something of the soul dies of attrition.
I'm one of those fortunate people who experiences wonder on a daily basis, even when I'm despondent at other things. I have only to step out of my door into what we jokingly (or not) refer to as 'Roselle's social life' – interactions with the finches and tits that appear when I do (knowing of course that I fill the feeders daily); awareness of the music of the little cascade in the valley; the rooks and jackdaws playing with the wind above the oaks; the deer prints by the brook; spring walking steadily towards us at a speed of however many miles it is per week, etc.
I'll stop there lest my Pollyanna-ishness irritates people – and there we go, evidencing what I said above.
Anyway, I'm speaking of this because I had an 'Osage orange' moment at the top of the path up from the courtyard into our field, except that it was a 'Devon holly' moment.
Let me explain.
One of the books that has most left its mark on me from my first reading over 30 years ago now is Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Like, I suspect, other devotees of this book, one moment in particular that Dillard writes of has stayed with me as an intense visual internalised experience, a moment of extreme luminosity, almost miraculously beautiful and awe-full. Here's the passage, which is actually about seeing:
'For a week last September migrating red-winged blackbirds were feeding heavily down by the creek at the back of the house. One day I went out to investigate the racket; I walked up to a tree, an Osage orange, and a hundred birds flew away. They simply materialized out of the tree. I saw a tree, then a whisk of color, then a tree again. I walked closer and another hundred blackbirds took flight. Not a branch, not a twig budged: the birds were apparently weightless as well as invisible. Or, it was as if the leaves of the Osage orange had been freed from a spell in the form of red-winged blackbirds; they flew from the tree, caught my eye in the sky, and vanished. When I looked again at the tree the leaves had reassembled as if nothing had happened. Finally I walked directly to the trunk of the tree and a final hundred, the real diehards, appeared, spread, and vanished. How could so many hide in the tree without my seeing them? The Osage orange, unruffled, looked just as it had looked from the house, when three hundred red-winged blackbirds cried from its crown. I looked downstream where they flew, and they were gone. Searching, I couldn't spot one.'
I remember this as a passage about the sudden appearance of an almost-transcendent experience of light; not so much literal, but more about the way the experience of an unexpected encounter with a moment can light the rest of a life with its inner glow. And it's an experience that has repeated itself in actuality with me maybe half a dozen times, the last a few days ago with migrating redwings in our holly tree.
Strangely, Dillard's encounter is as vivid in my now-reinforced memory as my own.
The thing is, this is what we have: this necklace of moments, of small wonders, to light us through on our way; and suddenly we search the memory-cupboard and find that they're huge, and the store is inexhaustible.