Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Power of Wow

Last month I received a magazine, Good Housekeeping, from a friend. It sat on my counter for about a week before I finally got the chance to sit down and really read the magazine. Most of the time I just flip through and look at the pictures and I don't really read the junk articles that are in there, but I had decided I needed some me time and one of my favorite things to do is read, so Good Housekeeping here we come.

In the middle of the magazine I found this wonderful wonderful article that I thought was so good I wanted to share! The article is called “The Power of WOW: Astonishing stuff appears in our lives constantly. We just have to be open for business,” by Anne Lamott. Take a moment for yourself and ENJOY!

“One of the simplest of prayers, ‘Wow,’ is often uttered with a sharp intake of breath. When we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty or destruction, an unbidden insight or unexpected flash of grace. ‘Wow’ means we are not dulled to wonder. We click into being fully present when we’re stunned into that grasp by the sight of a birth, or last fall’s hurricane destruction, or the experience of watching the northern lights, at dawn, for the first time. ‘Wow’ is about having one’s mind blown by mesmerizing or the miraculous: the veins in a leaf, birdsong, volcanoes. ‘Wow’ is a teenager’s Christmas car (secondhand, but still). 

I remember hearing ‘Wow’ for the first time from the mouth of our beloved family friend, a German nature-lover named Gertrud. She said ‘Vow!’ a lot when she and her husband took my family out onto San Francisco Bay on their small sailboat, and when we went on a wildflower hike in Yosemite: ‘Vow! Loot at zis!’ looking straight up from beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. ‘Vow! Look at zis!’ Alpine-blue spider lupine, monkey-flowers, paintbrush. ‘Wow’- because you are almost speechless, but not quite. 

When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we’re finally starting to get somewhere. It is so much more comfortable to think that we know what it all means, what to expect, and how it all hangs together. When life keeps us from being able to chip something down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is ‘Wow,’ that’s a prayer.

Wows come in all shapes and sizes. There are the lowercase wows: You can’t believe you felt as low and lonely till you thought to change the sheets; the cotton feels like cool, smooth skin-wow. And then there are the uppercase Wows: Fireworks. Fred Astaire dancing. Other planets (and other suns).
‘Wow’ has the reverberation -wowowowow- and this pulse can soften us, like the tingling electrical stimulation an acupuncturist directs to your spine. As a tiny little control freak, I want to understand the power of Wow, so I can organize it, and up its rate and frequency. But I can’t. I can only feel it, and recognize that it is here once again.

Nature explodes in winter, and more people die than in other seasons. The poor freeze and starves. It absolutely blows your mind how cruel the environment and poverty can be. You almost have to turn away, and many people do. We try to do our best, and then a whole snowy hillside buries a town, or a child dies where fire erupted (or was set). If you keep your heart open, these traumas beat you down. But against all odds, something emerges from the wreck- age in our hearts.

Nothing can possibly make things OK again. And then, people and grace surround the critically injured person or the bereft family. Time passes. It’s beyond bad. But people don’t bolt. Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soul. The sun rises. Wow.