Archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2000

The effervescent newness of life

June 21, 2000

Last week, as I held my newborn nephew in my arms, his mother and I talked about how it must be to have a lifetime of new experiences waiting, or as the child's father said, to be something slightly akin to being an alien on a strange new planet.

Later that night at home as lightning bugs blinked in the darkened sky and the stars and moon shone overhead, I realized that soon, these would all be new revelations for the baby.

What thoughts must pass through someone's mind upon seeing a star, moon or lightning bug for the first time?

As adults we take for granted mysteries of the night, and mysteries of the day as well, that confounded and captivated generations before us.

What must it be like to yet have your first steps before you? To only watch others walk and know, without even knowing really, that someday you, too, will most likely take your first steps.

When I think about all the "firsts" we've all experienced, it becomes a game of sorts, bringing back sensations, situations and feelings sometimes long forgotten the first raindrop on your face, the first skinned knee, the first day at school, the first piano recital, the first ride on a merry-go-round, the first best friend, the first rainbow, the first toasted marshmallow, the first fort built in the woods, the first bicycle ride, the first time to put your head under water at the pool, the first time you felt wind on your face or heard the wind whistle down the chimney, the first time you spat out a watermelon seed, wiggled your toes in the mud, took a shovel and started to dig your way to China, climbed a tree, blew a bubble, waded in a brook, caught a fish, flew a kite, held a friend's hand, kissed your first kiss? Do you remember the first time you spelled your name or the first time you spelled "Tonganoxie"?

The trick as we grow older is to try to hang onto some of that initial curiosity and to try to see each moment anew, even if we've experienced similar moments before.

For instance, although we may have seen a certain flower's bloom before, we haven't seen it in that particular light or at that particular spin of the earth, beneath those particular clouds or at that particular moment in time.

Things are always changing.

Or, as the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said, you never dip your foot in the same river twice.

And so, as I looked into the depths and curiosity of this newborn child's eyes, listened to the sweet softness of his breathing and cupped my hands around his tiny hands and feet, I couldn't help but wonder in amazement about all the places and discoveries that await him.

The reality of rocking the cradle could be a reminder that we are always seeing and learning for the first time. It's a lifelong celebration.

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