Ringing in a new year with the music of the soul
Story & Photo by Chad Love
It might be a stretch to make the connection between a famous dead astrophysicist author and a covey of bobwhite quail, but it was Carl Sagan who came to mind as I was leaning against the truck recently, sipping from a thermos and thinking about the old year just past, the new year barreling toward me while I listened to the soft, pre-dawn covey calls float across the prairie.
That sound always elicits something in me, a sense of awe knowing that I am witness to things ancient and beautiful and mysterious.
And it made me think of a quote. I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but Sagan once said that it is our destiny to be bathed in mystery and confusion, as the universe will always be much richer than our capacity to understand it.
What a wonderful sentiment that is. How poor would be our spirits and souls be if we understood everything around us, everything about us?
One of the primary traits that keeps us human, keeps us grounded, keeps us young at heart, and recharges our capacity to care about the world around us, is the ability to be fascinated; to simply stand in awe of something that will forever remain beyond our ability to grasp, or truly ever know.
Wonder and awe: they are our spiritual sustenance. They’ve been an essential part of the human condition since our distant ancestors first sat around a campfire weaving creation myths as a way to understand and try to comprehend the world around them.
In fact, that’s where all art and science is ultimately derived, when you think about it. The desire to understand is what drives our desire to create, but what fuels that desire, what really stokes it, is wonder and awe.
So I suppose my truck-side, prairie-morning, pre-hunt bit of philosophical advice for this brand-new year is this: don’t ever lose that wonder and awe — for anything. When you feel yourself slipping into fatigue, when you start feeling apathetic and jaundiced about life, stop doomscrolling, put down your phone, and go take a walk, alone or behind a dog.
Listen for the whistle of a bobwhite (or the cackle of a rooster, if you’re into that sort of thing), the call of a meadowlark or a red-winged blackbird. Watch the way a box turtle slowly makes its way across a lonely dirt road. Marvel at the patterns a snake’s movement etches in the sand. Catch tadpoles, cup them in your hand, watch them swim around in the universe of your palm. Follow the tracks of a beetle to wherever it leads.
Wonder and awe. There’s a whole world full of it out there waiting to be discovered and marveled at. All it takes are footsteps and the willingness to hear the world through a child’s ear, see it through a child’s eye. So in this new year, stay young, stay curious, and listen for the sound of what moves you.
Chad Love is the Editor of the Quail Forever Journal.