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'My Year of Small Wonders' by Ann Rennie published in Melbourne Catholic

28 Feb 2018

Genazzano teacher, Mrs Ann Rennie, is this year celebrating a decade of teaching English, Texts & Traditions and Religious Education at our College, and we are so grateful to Mrs Rennie for her contribution. Not only has Mrs Rennie taught at Genazzano for ten years, she has contributed her talents as an author by writing novels including, 'The Secret Garden of Spirituality' and 'Grit & Grace', as well as numerous articles for prominent magazines. One such article recently featured in Melbourne Catholic (Feb 2018 edition). Entitled 'My Year of Small Wonders', it celebrates finding joy in the everyday things that can often be overlooked - the small yet wonderful moments that make up our lives.

Please read below for the full article (image collage by Melbourne Catholic).


For last year’s words belong to last year’s language

And next year’s words await another voice.                                    

                                                                 T.S.Eliot: Four Quartets.


In a world that celebrates the next big thing, the newest look, the latest trend, the what’s hot and what’s not, this year I am looking out for the slight, the soft and the singular; the small soul-stirring wonders that can change the colour and mood of an hour, a day, a life.

Small wonders - where happiness and sometimes holiness is clothed in the ordinary and the everyday.

A small wonder is the poem that exactly matches your mood. It is a 22 degree day in early autumn as the trees dress in garnet and gold and the world appears rich with invitation. It is the jacaranda waterfall in the back garden, a new version of an old song, the feeling of joy in simply being alive and capable and knowing that you are important to those who love you. It is the long blue day of summer and the strange swoop of serendipity that reignites dormant feelings and suggests other possibilities. It is the clever headline, the incisive cartoon or the quick wit of those who make us laugh. It is the scent upon which treasured memories are resurrected. It is the knowledge that you have agency and ability and a voice, small maybe in the din and dun of a noisy world, but a voice never-the-less; a voice trying to be heard with its own plain truth in a world of clang and clamour.

A small wonder is seeing the kindness of your child and knowing that, somehow, you have done a good job in making them that way. It is looking at a beautiful painting and noticing the brilliance of a fold of silk, the slight protuberance of trembling lip, a tiny buckled shoe, lowering clouds.  It is about being clothed in a quiet confidence that things are going well and you are part of an enterprise that looks ahead.

Perhaps it’s about an acceptance that the here and now is to be grasped and shaped well. It is about being happy with who you are and not having to jump through other’s hoops for approval. It is about the gentle grace of equanimity and an enthusiasm for funny little projects shared with others. It is being able to read and write and sit with a good book and ponder. It is about the mystery and intrigue of the imagination which can open up thoughts that are frighteningly large and exquisitely small. It is about being chuffed that your brain is still whirring well and that you can get the nine letter word out in the morning paper - most days!

In this my year of small wonders I will succumb to the gentle joys of cloud-watching and the chortle of the kookaburra in the old gum tree. I will listen to the rhythm of the rain and marvel at the innocence of a toddler’s gummy smile and the giggling that goes with it.  I will read books that make me want to write and I’ll listen to my daughter as she tries on her dreams for size. I will notice the child who does her best every time, although she does not win the glittering prize. I will encourage the shy and sweet and will not be fooled by the false triumphalism that big is best. I will stoop to smell a grandmotherly rose and stop to exchange a cheery word with my neighbour. I will notice the rhythms of life around me - the big brass band of getting through the day, the orchestral swell and hum of evensong and the jazzy interlude of unexpectedness.

This year I will learn to accept the small wonder of a compliment. I will notice the colours around me, peacock blue and fuchsia and sun-spun yellow. I will submit breathlessly to the star-spangled soup of sky at night in the countryside near Harcourt and the cool complicity of moonlight. I will be thankful for the kindness of the colleague who home-bakes banana muffins and brings them in to share. I will be glad of the cup of tea my husband makes me just when I am running out of puff in the evening. I will be in awe of the men and women who are humble and resilient and do small wonders when they care for grandchildren, deliver meals on wheels and refuse to use age as a reason not to get involved in life swirling around them. I will watch as the next generation innovates and creates and I will wonder aloud as to how they thought of such things in the vast realms beyond my own understanding.  I will continue with my own small wordy adventures, dallying delightedly in old tomes and new texts. I will use words that encourage, celebrate and affirm; words of endearment, of poetry, of joy, of plain old common sense and fairness.

Small wonders can be found in the security and safety of the normal and routine, in the shelter we find in the predictable pattern. They sparkle in the ebb and flow of the ordinary. Occasionally, they are scintillas of surprise that choreograph change. They are fragments, vignettes, moments of glad grace that build gratitude and delight and give life meaning.  They are about noticing the decorative marginalia and not being unthinkingly importuned by the bold and the brash of the attention-seeking. They are rewards for noticing. Small wonders are often clothed in humility and reticence, their delight enjoyed by those who look and learn and listen and linger.

It is a different sort of leaning in.

This year I will notice the change of seasons, the lady bird on the leaf, new songs being sung. I will try to be a good friend, holding onto the friendships that have held onto me. I will colour the year with contentment for what I have and I will be glad for others. I will lift up my heart. I will jump for joy. I will be excited by the world around me and what it offers. The road less travelled will beckon me with its serpentine trails and faint tracks and I’ll visit China to walk along the Great Wall.

The Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister, suggests that one way of coming to live the good life is to do one thing a day for the soul, one thing a day for the heart and one thing a day for the mind - a perfect trinity of endeavour. I will remove someday from my vocabulary and replace it with a definite date, place and time. I will offer some of that time to causes I believe in. I will watch movies with my daughter and visit galleries with my husband and will carve out time on the weekend to wrestle with words. I will laugh and conspire with my siblings to plan the years ahead.  I will continue to read voraciously, thankful for all the good words that inspire me. I will wear my bright pink lipstick, remember the importance of playfulness and count my blessings.  I will pray, raggedly and hopefully, believing I am heard. I will start the year, as the Psalmist writes, with a clean heart.

The writer Annie Dillard reminds us that How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. So in 2018 I will look about me. I will be alive to small wonders; the wonders that dress our sometimes wounded world in the shimmering threads and shook foil of the beautiful, the truthful and the good.

Written by Mrs Ann Rennie and published in the Feb 2018 editon of Melbourne Catholic.