A Return to Wonder and Belonging

Last week when I was writing about the gifts inherent in developing a close relationship with nature, I was reminded of a book by Byrd BaylorYour Own Best Secret Place

Officially, Byrd Baylor’s books are classified as children’s books. (I first came across them a long time ago when my son was young.) But don’t let that fool you. These are books for the curious, playful parts of ourselves no matter what age the calendar says we are. The imagery in the language and the heart of her messages speak to something deep, deep within that is not to be forgotten.

Celebrations_coverBaylor’s books, often set in the Southwest, demonstrate a love, respect and connection with cultures and landscapes. Not in a detached, intellectual way, but with an intimacy that is only borne of first-hand relationship. They illustrate the endless miracles that are found when we let ourselves wander in vast landscapes. I heard her speak once at the local university. During the talk, she said something that I’ll never forget, “Walking too much on concrete will make you crazy.” I couldn’t agree more!

Many of her books, in fact all of my favorites, are illustrated by Peter Parnall. His images are a perfect complement for Baylor’s prose. They are fluid and striking, images nested within images. The words and illustrations flow together in a way that is simply beautiful.

Byrd Baylor has written so many books I love, but here are a few that are personal favorites.

I’m In Charge of Celebrations, is a story of a woman who explores the natural landscape and creates her own celebrations or holidays from the beautiful & fascinating experiences she has there. One of her celebrations is Coyote Day when her meandering path intersected with that of a coyote. They each paused and looked at one another, unafraid and unhurried. 

“I saw her eyes and she saw mine. That look held us together. Because of that, I will never feel quite the same again. So on September twenty-eighth I celebrate Coyote Day.”  ~ Byrd Baylor, from I’m In Charge of Celebrations

How might our lives be different if we recorded the magical moments we experience in life, name them, note them on our calendars, and celebrate them every year?

The Way to Start a Day, describes rituals from around the world for greeting the sun and the new day.  Baylor’s writing is lyrical and vivid. This story engages a reverence and eagerness to face life in all its beauty. It reminds us to celebrate our connection with the world around us every day.

“A morning needs to be sung to. A new day needs to be honored.”  ~ Byrd Baylor, from The Way to Start a Day

My favorite place to read this story is when I’m backpacking, sleeping under the stars and waking with the first light of dawn. In fact as I sorted through my Byrd Baylor books I realized my copy of this one is missing. Maybe it’s sitting on a rock somewhere in canyon country. Time to go to the bookstore!

Another favorite is The Other Way to Listen. Listening is a big theme, in my life and in my work. It’s a pathway to wholeness and a practice I encouraged often. So much is revealed when we listen. This book tells the story of those who have learned to hear the wildflower seeds opening, the cactus blooming in the dark and the hills singing. 

“I used to know an old man who could walk by any cornfield and hear the corn singing. Most people never hear those things at all . . . . you have to learn it from the hills and ants and lizards and weeds and things like that.”  ~ Byrd Baylor, from The Other Way to Listen

When we stop, when we land in this moment and really listen – it’s amazing what we hear. The whispering of the trees is only the beginning. 

When was the last time you felt a sense of wonder, of awe and ease and belonging?

Sometimes we need a little spark to bring us back to these essentials. I guarantee you, one of these books is sure to provide that spark.

 

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