How Writing Returns us to Wonder

Given the busyness of our lives, finding time to “dwell in possibility,” as Emily Dickinson writes, isn’t easy. In this post, Grub Instructor Ben Berman thinks about how the writing process returns us to wonder and gives us the chance to “contemplate this world with a mixture of reverie and reverence.”


We are in the CVS parking lot, waiting for my wife to finish some errands, when my five-year-old notices an inchworm on her car window and starts to panic.


It’s okay, I say. It’s on the outside.


I don’t care, she screams. Kill it!


It will fly off when we start driving, I say.


No, my seven-year-old says from the other side of the car. You have to save it.


I don’t really feel like getting up but I also don’t feel like listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack yet again, so I get out of the car and try to pull the inchworm off the window.


There is a fine line between pulling an inchworm off a window and squishing its guts out, but I finally pluck him between my fingers then look around until I spot a patch of green that I’ve somehow never noticed before.


I walk on over and flick my hand back and forth until he falls onto the grass. Except he doesn’t fall – he dangles in mid-air, spinning like a trapeze artist from my hand – until I gently lower him and lay him down between a cigarette butt and Skittles wrapper.

In a moment I will return to my car where my daughters are listening to Come Alive and for the first time all week I will not ask them if we can switch CDs; I will join them as they sing about dreaming with your eyes wide open.


My wife will return from her errands and I will not ask her what took her so long; I will hold her hand and notice its warmth and the roughness of her callouses.


And then I will drive home and forget entirely about this moment – because who has time for transcendence when there are lunches to put away and dinners to make and laundry to wash and arguments to be had with your five-year-old about whether or not she needs to wear pants when she plays in the front yard.


Chances are, I will not think about this inchworm ever again unless I wake up early tomorrow morning and sit down at my desk and open my journal where I will write aimlessly, at first, describing the inchworm in plain and simple terms – its tiny hairs and translucent green, the way it arched and straightened towards the one purple flower in the lot – until the language begins to surprise me and I find myself writing about the strength and delicacy of invisible threads, the challenge of applying the right amount of pressure.


And then I will start thinking about how hard it is, as we grow older, to feel the kind of fascination we felt as kids. I will look up the word fascination and learn that it comes fascinus, meaning the embodiment of the divine phallus, and for the briefest of moments I will even consider writing a poem about the inchworm as a tiny green divine phallic symbol.


I will think about how my five-year-old was scared and how my seven-year-old believes that all life is sacred, and I will see the words scared and sacred near one another and think there’s a poem there too.


And though these journal entries will never really go anywhere, I will be so grateful that for a few hours before the busyness of the day I have this time to contemplate this world with a mixture of reverie and reverence.


See more of Ben’s writing about Writing While Parenting, here. 


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About the Author

Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, was recently selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Center for the Book. And his new book, Then Again, came out last November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters.

See other articles by Ben Berman
by Ben Berman


The Writing Life



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