Bargell: Working out in wonder (column)
Special to the Daily
Begin again, lurching for that one perfect thought before it dissipates. So goes the creative process.
The old writing muscles have atrophied of late — sentences that used to fly into the keyboard now take a slow train to Slovakia or some other unknown destination. Time off surely should be invigorating, but theory and practice sometimes are misaligned. A Christmas musing fast became a New Year’s quandary only to emerge, hopefully, with a Valentine’s twist.
The recent holiday brought some Wonder into my life. My sis, a retired school teacher, gave me the adolescent books “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, and its companion “365 Days of Wonder.” Recommended reading in her school district, “Wonder” is a quick and engaging story about a fifth grade student who faces extraordinary physical challenges. The main character is a young man who can’t help but stand out during that time of life when most kids yearn only to fit in.
I won’t spoil the story-line because it’s really the spin-off, “Wonder” for each day of the year I found captivating. It’s probably because each page contains only a single sentence or two, a book of precepts, combined to make the ultimate short read. It comes alive through the spirit of Thomas Browne, a fictional fifth-grade English teacher initially introduced in the book “Wonder.” While Mr. Browne may be made up, the daily precepts have caused some cogitation.
As Palacio explains in her acknowledgment, “precepts aren’t just maxims or pretty quotes, after all — they are words to live by, to elevate the soul, that celebrate the goodness in people.” Many of the year’s 365 precepts reflect the original thoughts of youngsters inclined to think about life’s weightier issues. Others are single sentence gems that span history, like “Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed,” Lloyd Jones, Feb. 16.
Despite this motivational smorgasbord, one early Sunday morning brought on a funk that wouldn’t readily lift. Searching for inspiration, I set off to catch church. Visiting the pew certainly is no claim to piety but rather recognition that all available sources of inspiration are needed some days just to make it through. There are those teenage years, now times two, coupled with two driving permits (yep, watch out) — a combination certainly outlawed in most civilized nations.
Sitting solemnly, or just a bit grouchily, a song lyric jumped out at me and, for some odd reason, made me laugh out loud. Not intended as humorous, a duly-serious composition all about strengthening my heart hit a nerve. Fresh off a couple of yoga classes, I immediately envisioned a small, albeit mighty, heart in a well-positioned downward facing dog pose. If you’ve ever practiced yoga, the image will readily take shape. If not, just imagine two small ventricles extending from the heart to support the muscle in push-up like position. The little heart then went through an entire vinyasa — a strengthening exercise.
The silly image reminded me that inspirational reading is only one part wonder. Wonder incarnates through effort, that one metaphorical pose, as simple as a word of gratitude or opening the door for an unsuspecting stranger. What might change if I actually took the heart exercises seriously I wondered, although I’m not sure if hearts actually sweat.
“If you ever feel lost, let your heart be your compass.” Original precept by Emily, age 11, Feb. 7, “365 Days of Wonder.”
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She serves on the Summit School Board — although the views in this column do not reflect those of the Board or any other organization.
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