I have one very specific memory from when I was very young. I don’t remember the exact age, but I was between four and six years old. My family still lived in Maryland at the time, so there was grass, and there were trees everywhere, and blue sky. We lived in an area where everyone had at least a few acres to themselves, so there was a lot of open land between houses. It was beautiful (if you exclude the bugs). I was outside with my dad one day, and maybe my brother or sister too, and I decided to just plop down on the grass, lay back, and stare at the sky. And I remember this particular day because it was the day that I realized that the clouds move. I pointed it out to my dad, excitedly. “Dad! Dad! The clouds! Look!” He asked what about them? I said, “Look, they move!” He said, “Yes, that’s the wind pushing them.” I certainly couldn’t feel any wind. I guess I sort of understood that there is wind very high up in the sky where we can’t feel it. Mostly, I just remember that moment of discovery, of being so excited and amazed and taken aback by something so small, so ordinary, that most adults take it for granted, and instead of being amazed at the clouds, they say, “What about them?”
I remember walking outside, off of our back porch, and wandering into the woods that were mere feet behind our home. I never went very far, but to my very young self it felt like I was miles and miles from home. I would take paper with me, and crayons, and I’d put the paper onto the bark of trees and rub the crayons over it to get bark rubbings. I would collect different kinds of leaves, acorns, rocks (I had a magnificent rock collection, if I might say so, by the time I was ten or eleven), anything I could get my hands on that caught my interest. I was the same way when I went to the beach. I’d collect shells, rocks, pebbles (many of which I still have stashed away in a little tin box), and I was absolutely amazed by the vastness of the water. While I did not feel insignificant, I did feel small.
I saw the bigness of the world around me and felt amazed. I wondered what it would be like to be a mermaid and live deep in the sea, or to have wings and fly up high in those clouds that for crying out loud they move!!
But at some point, I just…stopped.
I stopped reminding myself that the world is a big and wonderful place full of adventures and thrills and mysteries. Do you realize that we still don’t really know what lies beyond our atmosphere? We don’t really know what lies in the deepest depths of the ocean, living at pressures and levels of heat and cold that we could never imagine surviving in. We don’t really know how many species of things exist on earth. But estimates say there are 8.7 million, and the best estimates say that 80% of these are yet undiscovered. Most of them are bugs. Which creeps me out, just a bit. But its still amazing.
And thinking about all of this, I realized that I need to start reminding myself again. I need to get up early and watch more sunrises, watch more sunsets, watch trees blow in the wind and watch the wind blow the clouds like bunches of leaves without trunks. I need to feel grass underneath me and just close my eyes and wonder what wings would feel like, and swim in a pool and see how long I can stay under, opening my eyes under the water and wondering what it might be like to live in an aquatic world. I think we should wonder what fish think, and ask ourselves what it would be like to function entirely nocturnally like bats do. What if we had the toes of monkeys?
I think that What if? is the most important question you can ever ask yourself, and I think that imagining the impossible is as important as staying grounded in what is realistic. Because without the desire for wings, would the Wright brothers ever have invented the airplane? Without wondering what it would be like to live underwater, would we ever have come up with the idea for a submarine? Would Jules Verne have written 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? What if we’d never asked ourselves what would happen if we added sails onto what was essentially a hollowed out tree trunk? What if nobody had asked what a pig tastes like when you cut it into strips and fry it!? I mean, just take a moment and imagine a world without bacon. Really.
And most of all, I think that looking at a vast world, that’s actually just a tiny part of an infinitely vast and ever-expanding universe, put here by an even more vast God, makes it all that much more amazing when we realize that there’s so much here that has so much meaning; that the God who named every star, and created all of those nine million species of things on the earth, and created each of the seven billion people on the planet, loves you, knows your name, cares for you, catches every tear, and is sovereign over your tiny little life. And that is truly incredible.
Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).