Many years ago I visited my pen-friend for the first time. We had been writing to each other, in a confusing mix of English and German, for over 5 years, and since he lives in Kiel, in Germany, and I live in Melbourne, Australia, this was our first face to face meeting. This was pre-internet, startling though that may seem, so our contact was largely restricted to sporadic paper letters. Remember those?
I have many vivid memories of that trip, the strongest of them being the warmth with which his whole family embraced me and made me feel welcome. I have called them “my German family” ever since, and they still feel that way to me, despite the distance.
Although his English has always been far better than my German, we still managed our fair share of language confusion. We laughed about how he had written to me saying he wanted to drive to Australia, and about how I had alternated between addressing him as a boy and as a girl. (“Lieber” vs “Liebe” – an easy mistake to make.)
But the best mix-up of the trip was when I suggested we go for a wander. He heard it as “go for a wonder”. He took such delight in the phrase that I hadn’t the heart to tell him that it was a mistake. And, indeed, it soon came to appeal to me just as much, and it may be the nicest mistake I have ever been a part of.
So much of my life feels like a hectic rush – always hurtling to get things done, always hundreds more tasks piled up on the todo list after this one. Having small children has occasionally reminded (or forced) me to take a deep breath and live in the moment. There is no “quick walk” with a 3 year old. There are butterflies to watch, flowers to pick, ants to examine, and small pebbles to exclaim over. When you’re three, the line “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” describes your life completely. Every moment of your day is an opportunity to wonder at some new aspect of the world.
We lose that, of necessity, as we grow up and begin to feel the sting of deadlines – some of which don’t so much whoosh as they go by as land heavily on your head, just before they explode. At least, that’s how it feels some days.
There isn’t much space for walking to wonder. But perhaps it is something we need to make more time for. To allow ourselves the luxury of living in the moment and watching the butterflies. To let go of what happened yesterday, and forget about what’s coming tomorrow. Let’s go for a wonder.