SAMAL ISLAND, Davao – My friend, PDI columnist John Nery, calls it “a permanent sense of wonder.” That’s how it’s been for me and the children the last few days, as we’ve cocooned ourselves in my slice of paradise here in Mindanao.
A month ago I decided to bring my children back to discover part of my roots. My father was born and grew up here before he moved to Manila after college. The place where we have been staying, Chema’s, is a small and quaint hideaway, 15 minutes by ferry boat from the city.
We wake up early and try to catch the sunrise. The waves gently crashing against the shoreline is our alarm, as are the different species of birds that chatter and sing right outside our bedroom window.
We take quiet walks on the wharf, getting to know one another, trading stories about family and friends back home. We soak ourselves in sun, sea, and sand, investing in memories that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Viewing this paradise island through the eyes of my children has been a whole new experience. My son, the city boy that he is, has been mesmerized by the sea. My daughter, she with the photographer’s eye, has helped me view Davao and Samal through a different, more insightful lens.
Being here, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, brings out one’s creativity and sense of adventure. I’m both glad and anxious that my children have grown to be much braver than I ever was, having a sense of daring, wonder, and adventure that their mother discovered only at midlife.
Margaret Tartakovsky, associate editor of PsychCentral website, outlines five ideas for cultivating a sense of wonder.
First, she says, “Watch children play or do anything.” I found great joy on this trip watching my normally reserved son focus and build his sandcastles by the sea, humming and singing songs to himself, inspecting the different shells, and corals washed upon the shore.
Tartakovsky says, “We can all take a lesson from observing children, from how excited they get with a new toy to how they smile at the simplest things. Apply some of that wonder to your daily life.”
Second, she suggests that we read up on creativity, or allow ourselves to simply let our imaginations soar and run free. “I think of having fun and being free. When we’re preoccupied with the quotidian, we forget that.” Start with the classic, Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life.” Everyone has an inner artist buried deep within, waiting to be unleashed.
Next, she suggests taking up photography and taking time to appreciate good photographs. Maintain a sense of wonder at the beauty all around you, because all it really takes is for one to be still for a moment and appreciate the beauty, even in the simplest of things. I believe “mindfulness” would be the right word. “Photographers do an incredible job of finding and capturing the beauty in the smallest of things, in the most mundane of moments.” I saw that for myself in my daughter’s photos of seemingly inconsequential things.
Travel. If you can afford it, great. You don’t have to ride a plane or a boat, or go away for long periods. Sometimes all you need to do is go to the library or browse a website and just imagine that you are there. Really. When I feel down I always like to visit travel websites and add to my bucket list of places I would like to visit.
Lastly, Tartakovsky suggests that we always learn something new, about yourself or the world around you. “Learning is one of the best ways you can cultivate wonder. You can either dig deeper into topics you’re already familiar with, or take on a totally strange, interesting subject.”
Learn with your children. Ask yourself, what have I always wanted to learn about? What classes do I want to take, but never had time to do so? What skill or hobby do I want to pick up that will add to my joy?
Last night, my children and I sat on the balcony of our cottage on a hill. Shooting the breeze, fully engaged and immersed in conversation, a gentle wind blowing, and capiz lanterns swaying from age-old talisay trees.
Midway through a sentence, I paused and we all looked out into the vast Davao gulf to watch the flickering lights from ships passing through the night as they mingled with stars. Whether you’re at midlife or adolescence, it’s important to never lose the wonder.