Cultivating Curiosity

I was a very inquisitive child. I remember my childhood brain vividly; my mind was saturated, soaked with a quirky imagination, my dark green eyes always widened in fascination. I had a couple of chipped teeth, proof of my long days of playing, and a big, tender heart.

I remember the books—oh, the books!

A giant case of all of my favorite titles sat unwavering outside of the white wooden door to my bedroom. On the occasions that I could coax my golden retriever into my towering, blankety fort, I would read her/him/her (Ginger, Spencer, and Baylee, respectively) storybooks, careful to give full view of the pictures to the set of chocolate brown eyes next to me. There were even big kid books, stacked on the tippy-top shelf, gleaming in all of their grown-up glory. I would run my tiny, unpolished fingers over the titles, praying that each book would silently and graciously bless me with the ability to read long words one day. Atlases and chemistry manuals and Kyle’s battered European History text each showered me with tiny kisses, down in my little soft fort, telling me that one day I would be tall enough to reach and old enough to understand. In the meantime, it was princesses and fairies, noble knights, and a gorgeous pink book with gold-rimmed pages brimming with bedtime tales. I was fiercely curious, eager to dip my toes into other cultures and lands, going for a midday imaginative swim through the pages and pillows and blankets and words.

My imagination was so bright! Thick like oil paints and smeared like watercolors, my thoughts swirled to the notes of an imaginative symphony, singing to me, “Eat up all of that knowledge, little Buttercup. Eat it and taste it and make worlds out of it.” I wanted to know everything.

Shining eyes, large with wonder, my pupils danced left to right, left to right. I stitched together big-kid words, gliding through waves of sentences. On sunshiney Saturdays, Mom would take the big canvas tote to the library, filling it with new titles to bring home for me. There was a story about Mexican tradition, and a mystery with pearls. I remember towering stacks of yellow hardcovers with black ink—Nancy Drew—and the red and white gingham covers of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s adventures.And after the last page had been turned, I would linger on the last word, not ready to give up my own newfound life between the pages.

There were these old, lace curtains, torn at the seams and snagged in the middle, that I would wrap around my tiny torso and fasten with an old brooch.

My great aunt had gifted me with braided strands of pink and white freshwater pearls; on special days, my mom would let me wear them too. My little feet would slide into Mom’s cream pumps, the very ones she walked and laughed and danced in at her wedding. I’d then use hair ties, balancing in my too-big heels on my mattress, to fasten a blanket canopy to the top of my four-poster bed.

Under my canopy I would play and read and draw a little, just happy to be living.

I was curious, quick to learn and slow to forget. I savored every morsel of life and every string of words. Besides my curtain dress, I wore “playclothes” and romped outside. I bruised my elbows and picked leaves to make very inedible soup (the world will never know why on Earth I didn’t call it salad). I fell down and rolled in the grass, got itchy, and jumped in the pool. I ran barefoot and swam in dirt. I picked tomatoes, delighting in their tight, blood-red skin, and played with Kyle’s basketball when he let me. The Earth was a song and a poem and a picture; under every rock was a new critter friend, and the flowers sang ballads. Everything was interesting and joyful, and learning was scrumptious.

There were bad days, yes. Sometimes there were crocodile tears, thick and splashy. There were red cheeks and scraped knees. I was sensitive, and had not yet learned how to live with it (HSP, which stands for Highly Sensitive Person, is a psychological trait). I was a little bit anxious and a lot a bit shy. There were moments of hiding under the oak table in the dining room. But those moments, overflowing with gritty feeling, were fascinating to me. Life had color, triumphs, texture, and tears, and I wanted to understand every last bit.

I’ve heard some adults, in stressful and busy seasons of life, long for their pre-internet brain. I long for my pre-understanding brain. I long for the times of raw curiosity, before I decided I knew everything there ever was to know in life, ever (the comicality is unnerving). I want to linger over words, drinking in the syllables.

...says Giovanni to Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She delights; he laughs. “Let’s cross over. It is so ordinary,” he states, eyebrow raised and English thick with Italian undertones.

“He couldn’t understand why I liked it so much. Let’s cross the street? But to my ear, it’s the perfect combination of Italian sounds. The wistful ah of introduction, the rolling trill, the soothing s, that lingering “ee-ah-moh” combo at the end. I love this word. I say it all the time now. I invent any excuse to say it.” | Liz Gilbert

Sweet Liz and her wonderful travel tales pinpoint my desire for childlike curiosity. I really know so little. In my 20 years of life, I’ve established some sort of arrogance of “been there, done that.” There is nothing left to see, taste, touch, hear. But really, to believe this is true is to devalue the world and God’s incredible creation. The whole world is still at the tips of my fingers, lands to explore, words to learn, people to meet, hearts to be mended and tears to be shed.

 Let’s discover. Let’s create. Let’s explore and uncover and understand. Let’s stand in awe, drinking in the glory of the skies and the chemistry of our bodies.

Let’s be curious this year