Divided by long, prosaic interludes, life is a series of awakenings. I don’t know about you, but I have had several “revelations” that have so desperately influenced me that they have divided my life into two parts: before and after.
Sometimes awakenings have occured because of unexpected happenings; while at other times, the most mundane things have grabbed my attention and changed the course of my life.
I had two early childhood awakenings that deeply influenced me: My first one was at age two or three. I had the mumps. In those days, kids weren’t vaccinated for diphtheria, mumps, or whooping cough. And at that small age, I remember crying to my mother. My swollen jaws ached with extreme pain. My mother told me there was nothing she could do for my suffering. And I am sure there wasn’t baby aspirin or tylenol like today. I am sure she had done everything she could.
And in the small heart of a child, I understood that I had to comfort myself in my own pain. It was an awakening… and a valuable one at that. I learned to bear pain. Later in life, when all my friends fell apart when we had to get polio shots at school, I waited in silence and took my shot stoically with the steely strength of an adult. I comforted others who were petrified to have a shot.
It seems almost funny now, but these experiences prepared me for a career in nursing.
My second awakening came at age eight when my grade-school class took a field trip to the Denver Museum of Natural History. I had no idea what that was. All I knew was that it involved riding a bus across town with my classmates instead of going to school. That was great with me!
When we pulled up, the first thing I saw was swings. My friends and I raced to the playground and enjoyed swinging as high as we could. Those were special swings because they were cemented and wouldn’t come up from the ground like our backyard swingset.
After swinging, we lined up in a single file line and marched like little soldiers into the museum. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked through the huge doors of the museum, but what I saw took my breath away… a mammothly huge, gigantic, complete skeleton of a brontosaurus or apatasaurus! I almost had a fainting spell! I had been fascinated by dinosaurs for many years and never dreamed I would stand in front of one like this… or many… as I did on that day.
Although I was eight, I had the heart of a poet then and began formulating how to describe this feeling and new experience about my first tangible realization that there was a world beyond the four walls of my home, school, and church. The dinosaurs around me proved the existence of that world.
Today I can still remember the awe those ancient bones struck in my heart, the reverence, the explosion of joy and sobriety at once. Not only did my vision of the world grow, but my soul grew three sizes that day. It was a true awakening to the world beyond my intimate childhood rearing.
And I must say that same awe, reverence, wonder, and magic accompanies me when I visit an exhibit of pre-historic skeletons, bones, and fossils to this day.
One thing that makes this awakening especially important and tender is that I recognized that the world was much bigger than my everyday life, but that I must give written expression to what I witnessed. I also felt alone in my experience that day, although I probably wasn’t…
Since then I have had several other kinds of awakening, each deligthful and cherished.. the awakening of new love, of maternal love, of the passing of time, and the importance of history… all important and valuable independently on my journey through life.
And just like the eight-year-old standing with my mouth agape in front of a brontosaurus, today I am still yearning and struggling to birth, in poetry and prose, a record of those things that stir my heart and soul to ponder in reverence, that evoke childhood delight, wonder, and magic.
I never want to lose that…