I think I know almost everything.

Even so, I believe if I googled one more thing or finished one more book or attended one more conference, I’d discover the truth. The ultimate answer. The pivotal secret. The knowledge that would allow me to sashay down a straight and narrow road with white doves fluttering beside me and a radiant sun before me.

I spend so much time in front of a screen, trying to think myself out of whatever paper bag that consumes me, that I forget to look up. I know so much that I forget about the power of being surprised. And I mean the kind of surprise that makes you blink. And then blink again.

I saw it yesterday on a county road in Minnesota. Out of nowhere, a leaning village of tangled sticks stopped me cold. (Yes, it was sponsored by grant money and took three weeks to build, but that’s beside the point. Stop over thinking. That’s too much like what I do.) I was completely surprised. That predictable catch in my heart between beats opened up, and I slid through.

I was transported. I walked through its round, woven rooms and had no reference point.

I was Alice, free falling down a rabbit hole. I was Dorothy, inching along a yellow brick road. I was delighted. This structure was the stuff of myth, but elves are not common in the Midwest.  It was a living fairy tale, and I was in it.

Mystery and amazement are rare in my life. I miss that. Knowing a lot of facts gets to be a burden finally. It makes you responsible, which is an overbearing nuisance when you get right down to it. It forces you to put every square peg in its square hole. But as I stood at an oval window in a basket-ish wall that overlooked a meadow, I remembered driving with my daughter when she was four.

We lived in Rockford, Illinois, a city surrounded by cows and fields. One day she pointed to the round hay bales scattered cross the landscape and asked, “What are those?” I explained, and she was quiet for a long time. Then she said she always thought they were a sign of magic. “How so?” I asked.

Maggie believed that cows in a field were turned into round bales of hay. She didn’t know how it happened or why, but she thought I would know the answer. Her sweet certainty made me blink. Twice.

No answer would ever be equal to her innocent assumption that something that fantastical was possible. My logic couldn’t hold a candle to her imagination that created something adorably impossible as a way of understanding the world. At four, everything was a surprise. She stepped into each one with an eager heart.

Yesterday, I did, too. For the first time in a long time. The view was incredible.

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4 thoughts on “Be Surprised

  1. I only recently read the quote by Yeats, “In dreams begins responsibility.” I have often traded imagination for facts. I think that without imagination or dreams, there's no empathy. Without empathy, where's the call to be responsible to each other?

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