“[To the mystic] grass is really a forest and the grasshopper a dragon.

Little things please great minds.”

G. K. Chesterton

When little Lydia, almost two and a half, visited our house recently, she spent the first few minutes walking from room to room, noticing things she remembered from her last visit nearly a year ago. She exclaimed gleefully when she spotted two Russian dolls and a family of brass llamas (the Llama Llama book series is one of her favorites) on the living room shelf.

Outside, she asked to swing in the yellow seat and to lie down in the red-and-green striped hammock.

Lydia and Grandma ready to explore the front yard as we walk down the street to the EMU front yard on Homecoming weekend.

Lydia and Grandma ready to explore the leaves of grass in the front yard just before walking down the street to the EMU front yard on Homecoming weekend.

“The basement!” is Lydia’s favorite place at our house. She goes to the basement door a dozen times a day, pausing to look up at the cow image on the Silver Summit Dairy sign, one her great-grandmother designed, as she carefully navigates the steps. Upon turning the corner to the garage-sale-toy-filled space, she squeals with delight.

“I ride the horsie. You sit on the blue ball,” she commands. 

In this space, everything pleases Lydia. Like Adam in the Garden of Eden, she loves naming things. And counting. And singing. Color, especially the color purple, delights her. She never fails to praise it, and when she sees my royal purple robe, she claps her hands and calls it “special!”

Lydia loves machines that make noise — mixers, vacuums, hair dryers — but she doesn’t want to get too close to them or even turn them on. She looks at them from a distance. What she does want to get close to is anything natural or created within her range of vision. When we watered the purple mums, she had to pull one off to examine it more closely in the palm of her hand.

When she loves someone or something, she never contents herself with just one name. Soon I was hearing,

“Grandma, Grandma, Grandma, come play with me in the basement.”

And so I did. I played more in three days than I had for months. Sometimes I was bored. Lydia has such a high tolerance for repetition, whereas I am accustomed to seeking novelty. For her, gazing upon a thing of beauty — or bouncing on it or cutting paper with it or pasting it — gives her as much joy the tenth time as the first.

As Lydia and her parents pulled out of our driveway on their journey back to Pittsburgh, the morning sun illuminated the dew-laden grass of our front yard. I looked closer to see a dandelion in its seed stage, covered with translucent water droplets, shining like the sun behind it. I so wanted Lydia to see this beautiful sight, but she had just disappeared down the road. Instead of taking her hand and asking her what she saw in the grass, I took a photo to share with her. 

Dandelion in the front yard. After rain. As the sun rose.

I saw the dandelion in the grass because Lydia had been my teacher in the little things.

Next time she visits, we’ll go out in the grass again, sure to find forests and dragons.

What tips or stories do you have to share on how to enjoy mystical moments, either with grandchildren

or as part of your spiritual practice?

Shirley Showalter

28 Comments

  1. Judith Trumbo on October 18, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Oh, Shirley, I adore the photo. Like grandchild, like grandma! Must be the glasses and anticipation of adventure.

    I recall tugging on my grandpa’s arm book in hand, “Read Grandpa, read. Read, Grandpa, read.” And he always did!

    Minutes before reading your blog, I happened upon Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: “We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    The delight of childhood… unfettered shining. You captured it!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2019 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks for starting the conversation, Judith! So glad you were reminded of precious times with your grandpa. As I read these words from Marianne Williamson, I was reminded of our wonderful time last Tuesday at Bluestone Vineyard as Talibah led us in singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

      And I also went back to the GK Chesterton quote at the beginning of this essay. Little people notice the light in little things. And, as the Quakers say, there is “that of God in everyone.” The Inner Light shines through creation to the created. Amen.

      • Tracy Rittmueller on October 22, 2019 at 11:27 am

        This is so beautiful, Shirley. Thank you.

        Everything is coming together this morning, as I browse and read, as I settle into yet another “season” in our ever-changing lives, while simultaneously finishing my book, having moved out of monastery office and back home where I need to be more often now. A friend of mine just posted this quote: To endure doubt is ultimately the only thing you can do in life—to not strive for meaning or answers, and to endure the state you’re in.” Julie Cuccia-Watts

        My spiritual practices are gentling me into this state (Minnesota, now that my soul has at long last caught up to my body) and state of mind (childlike wonder). There are too many to name or describe, but the central attitudes that act as guides for me these days are those which a are trusting and letting go of the need to anticipate and control—to cease striving.

        My words for this season are homonyms: Believe; and Be-leave.

        Thank you for this story and these images. You calm, soothe, and inspire.

        • Shirley Showalter on October 22, 2019 at 11:52 am

          You have been plunged into life at a very deep level, Tracy. I sense that from afar. Trusting and letting go of the need to anticipate and control, ceasing striving. How difficult these are for most of us mere mortals, especially if we have even a small tendency toward anxiety!

          Be-leave. What an interesting concept. I look forward to learning more from you.

          Blessings as you again! make a transition home and finish your book! Thanks for staying in touch.

  2. Diane on October 18, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    I love it!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      Good to see you here, Diane. You know all about the “sacred ordinary.” Were you familiar with the Chesterton quote?

  3. June on October 18, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Lydia’s dandelion reminded me of picking daisies as a young girl and making daisy chains. Or as I grew older, the pull a pedal game, will I marry, yes or no. Simple pleasures enjoying the outdoors. Finding a dandelion, and blowing at the seeds to spread them, the daisies, looking at the grass or the ground with a magnifying glass. The awe of discovery. May you find the awe in the rediscovery of these things, and more.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2019 at 8:01 pm

      Oh yes, June. My little brother and I made daisy chains too. And pulled petals off daisies to see “he loves me, he loves me not.” Thanks for that memory jolt. You make a great suggestion for the next visit. I need a magnifying glass! Maybe we will put one each into each grandchild’s stocking. What a great idea. Love it.

  4. Marian Beaman on October 18, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Thank you for the Chesterton quote, one I hadn’t heard before.

    It’s all about a sense of wonder, isn’t it? The best poem about wonder I recall is the Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:

    so much depends
    upon

    a red wheel
    barrow

    glazed with rain
    water

    beside the white
    chickens

    Grass? The tweens and teens that visit our house have stopped gazing with wonder, especially regarding grass. Now they track in grass clippings when they help Grandpa with the lawn.

    Enjoy this stage. I’ve lost it with my grands, except in blog posts that record the memory. Perhaps that’s why I keep teaching two-year-olds in Sunday School. Ah, the sense of wonder and delight!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2019 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks for bringing in this classic of poetic attention, Marian. “No ideas but in things.” Poets seem to be able to keep child-like wonder alive longer than other people.

      You are perceptive about the stages of both childhood and grandparenthood. I am fascinated by the double lens.

      Good for you for volunteering to teach two year olds. If we don’t have another grandchild, I may need to do something like this. The wonder and delight of this stage can teach all of us so much!

      • Marian Beaman on October 19, 2019 at 9:59 am

        You may recall our magical mystery trips when our grands were the ages of yours now. I know you remember these escapades but perhaps other readers can benefit: https://marianbeaman.com/2013/06/12/how-to-mystery-trips/

        Lydia is such a delight, simply adorable. Like children of this age – guileless, unaware of her charm.

        • Shirley Showalter on October 19, 2019 at 1:13 pm

          Marian, it was fun to go back and read this! You have done a great job of enjoying wonder, joy, and adventure with your nearly-grown grandchildren. I had forgotten about the letter idea — sent in the mail on the day children are born so that they have a keepsake of grandma’s delighted first impressions sealed with their birth date. That’s brilliant, too.

  5. Marlena Fiol on October 18, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Oh, the photo is exquisite, Shirley!

    I’m happy that you’re cherishing these years. As others have said, the magical years pass quickly. Our big grandsons bring other joys into our lives – but no longer that awe and wonder about ordinary things.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 18, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      Thanks, Marlena.

      I am writing about grandparenting with another author/blogger, Marilyn McEntyre. She has more grandchildren and a wider spectrum of ages. It’s been fascinating to compare notes. I’d love to hear more about the joys your big grandsons bring.

  6. Linda Gartz on October 18, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    The photo is magical. The light makes it appear there are tiny crystals on each seed’s wings. I loved showing magical images (meaning the real thing when possible) to my kids when they were little, so it’s the perfect way to teach them to be observant, to relish in the endless beauty of nature or just marvel at its complexities. For young children, these tangible experiences build their brains and prepare them with the words and images to make sense of the world. You’re just a super grandma, so you don’t need any advice!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 19, 2019 at 8:12 am

      You really SAW the photo, Linda. Yes, that’s the glory of it — the minute distribution of the water over every part of the plant, even the stem. With the help of the sun’s illumination, a humble, even detested, flower (or weed, take your pick) can look as though it wears the crown of Empire. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

      You mention the brains of children. Studies on play and brain development fascinate me. And language acquisition — the neuroscience of human development. Lydia speaks in complete sentences and understands the subject-verb-object structure. How did she learn so much so fast?

      Thanks for the flattery and the chuckle. 🙂 Advice is probably not the right word. Experiences and connections and corrections are what I seek.

  7. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on October 18, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    Today I walked with Lena Kate, one of my grandchildren in Ontario. She showed me a place where she hangs out with her younger brother and two boys next door. It’s a small log house and they have made it into a pioneer home. The boys next door have a beautiful tree house as well, but Lena Kate says that little house is their favorite place. I was reminded of my own childhood when we used to make paste with flour and water and wallpapered old chicken coops. It doesn’t take much to delight a child!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 19, 2019 at 8:17 am

      I had forgotten about paste made of flour and water. We did that on the farm too, Elfrieda. Lydia’s paste came from a craft store. But she and her cousins would like paste they made themselves.

      Children love enclosed spaces like tents and log houses and caves. Give them pillows and blankets and they will find a way to “build” a structure.

      The readiness to delight and play is their gift to us. Let’s take it into old age!

  8. Marlin Gerber on October 19, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    What a precious sharing of memories with a grandchild, Thank you, Marlin in Michigan.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 20, 2019 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Marlin! It’s always good to see you here. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed.

  9. Laurie Buchanan on October 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Shirley — I’m sorry for the delayed response. I just returned from my last speaking engagement of the year and was offline Oct 16-19.

    Oh, how I enjoyed reading this post and learning what Lydia — at almost two and a half — is interested in. At just over one-year-old, Luna follows her by 18 months. It’s fun to see what I have in store.

    Our best learning moments come by way of singing, reading, and eating. Luna loves to sing (the girls has a set of pipes!) when nana plays the guitar, and she likes to help papa read. Her favorite book is “The Busy Noisy Farm.”

    When it’s time to eat, we spread a huge tarp underneath her highchair and let her feed herself. As she does this, we talk about the name of the food, the color, the taste, the texture, and we count whatever is on her plate. (Then we all go and hose ourselves off)…

    • Shirley Showalter on October 20, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      You have me chuckling, Laurie. I remember this stage well. Lydia was there when we drove away from Pittsburgh 18 months ago. Glad that you can see developmental stages just ahead when you read these posts.

      Thanks for pointing out how much reading, singing, naming, counting, and just plain noticing matter. I am intrigued by the connections between developmental stages of the child and the grandparent working in harmony. To stay sharp, we in our 60s and 70s need to pay attention to these things too. But mostly, we need open hearts. Yours is wide open!

  10. Melodie Davis on October 20, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    My daughters seem to enjoy my reflections on their children too–and I try to be unbiased although that’s not entirely possible. I love how you let your granddaughter be “in charge” and see what transpires. The photo of the icy dandelion skeleton is exquisite.

    Looking forward to hearing your presentation and that of others on Tuesday night!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 21, 2019 at 5:03 am

      I need to hope over to your blog to see what I’ve missed there lately, Melodie. I’m glad your daughters enjoy your reflections. Having a blog is a great way to create a family scrapbook while sharing what we learn and remember — if everyone is open to it.

      Lydia does love to be in charge, as most of us did at age 2.5. 🙂

      See you tomorrow night!

  11. Gillian Gonda on October 22, 2019 at 4:43 am

    I haven’t read your blog in a bit and absolutely loved this. First off, how is she already 2 1/2???? Wasn’t she just born? Time is so strange. Love seeing the world through her eyes. And loves that she loves the basement. I remember how much my brother and I loved my grandfather’s basement in Denver. We didn’t have one and it just seemed luxurious to have all that space. My grandfather had wonderful collections down there including a meticulously stacked pile of empty cardboard boxes. We spent our time throwing tennis balls up the laundry shoot. Taking turns to be at the top of the shoot in the upstairs bathroom trying to catch the ball as it got ever so close to our hands, but never quite close enough. Glad you get to spend this wonderful time with your grandkids… miss and love you!

    • Shirley Showalter on October 22, 2019 at 5:34 am

      I know, I know. The baby is gone now, and the “big girl” is emerging. She does not want to sit in high chairs any more!

      Thank you, Gillian, for letting me know you read this and for sharing this memory of you and your brother, in a big basement space, making up a thrilling game with just a tennis ball and a laundry shoot. Playing.

      Know that I am one of the women in your life cheering you on. You’ve got a big team in the basement who love you. And I miss you too.

  12. Ruth Naylor on November 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    It’s obvious that you are not missing the mystical in your big little granddaughter. What a blessing!

    • Shirley Showalter on November 3, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Thank you, Ruth. She is indeed both big and little. Can’t wait to see her again.

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