Monday, November 21, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022: Seeking Wonder

As I ponder gratitude around Thanksgiving each year, a theme often surfaces. This year, I've been thinking a lot about wonder. Each time I experience or witness something that makes me smile or gasp in awe and wonder, I'm grateful.

These moments take us out of our everyday world and anxieties slip away. I can't put it better than this quote (I found online here):

Wonder helps to put our place in the world into perspective. It not only allows us to see beauty in a crabapple; it reminds us that we are finite and that we are a part of something much greater than our ability to comprehend it. 

Every time I see a sunrise or sunset that stops me in my tracks, witness a solar or lunar eclipse, or spot some wild orcas in the Salish Sea, I feel this awe.

There are a zillion things that can elicit a sense of wonder or awe. 


For this blog post, I was initially thinking about natural phenomena, not all of which I could photograph. Actually, thank goodness I wasn't disrupting some of these moments by taking pictures!

As I mentioned in my last post about open water swimming, there was that incredible night this past summer swimming through tiny sparkles of bioluminescent light in the dark Salish Sea. And the sunset that preceded the experience:

Chuckanut Bay sunset.

Hiking through a grove of golden subalpine larches, which I call unicorn trees, is another wondrous experience. People flock by the hundreds (maybe thousands?) to the most popular larch hikes in the region in a frenzy of "Larch Madness" each autumn. These conifers that glow golden for a few short weeks each October seem to cast a spell and draw you onward, wanting more.

I treasure memories of many nights sleeping under the stars during meteorite showers. Spotting a shooting star is truly one of the most awe-filled things to witness.

An especially vivid meteorite encounter was a peak experience, literally and figuratively. As my friend Matt and I neared the summit of Mt. Adams predawn one August morning many years ago, a brilliant shooting star streaked low across the horizon, not much higher than where we stood high on the 12,000-foot-tall mountain.

Mt. St. Helens from the Lunch Counter on Mt. Adams

In 2017, I was fortunate to witness a total solar eclipse from a friend's farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley. I was gobsmacked by that 90 seconds. The image of that black sun with spiky tendrils of light shooting out all around is a moment I will never ever forget.

Photo by Allen Denver.

In 2020, while the world was upended by the first wave of COVID-19, Comet NEOWISE was visible for weeks in the Northern Hemisphere. Several times I drove, binoculars in hand, to the darkest viewing spot I could find near my home in Seattle to see it, seemingly immobile in the night sky.

Sorry I don't know the artist name to give credit, but isn't this a splendid painting of NEOWISE?

Hummingbirds also enchant me, and I always love to hear and spot them. They're an amazing marvel of physics and speed. To the Coast Salish people, they were a sign of good luck.

And the Aurora Borealis! I finally saw them shimmering in curtains of green across the night sky about a year ago. I called a stargazer friend to narrate how awesome and wondrous it was as I watched them dance across northern horizon. I think I kept on saying "THIS IS SO AWESOME!"

 As I was thinking about writing this post, I was trying to catalogue my top wonder experiences (most mentioned above). But then I realized I could write all day about the wonder and awe we can feel every day if we pay attention.

Mt. Rainier/Tahoma sunset from Bainbridge Ferry

So this Thanksgiving/holiday season, I'm feeling gratitude for the capacity to witness and feel wonder. 

May you, too, allow yourself to notice and experience a sense of wonder, today and every day. And I'd love to hear in a comment below some of your wonder moments.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBookTwitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.