Reflections on "A Sense of Wonder"

by Sally Stovall I had seen “A Sense of Wonder” with Kaiulani Lee on film and it was deeply moving. So when I saw the live performance on Saturday evening (April 21, 2012), nothing was new.  However, the Q&A with the actress afterwards, blew me away.  Below are a few notes to myself that I want to remember from that amazing conversation!

Kaiulani Lee wrote the play and has been performing it for 22 years.  When asked how she came to do this play, she told her personal story.  When she was a mom with 4 children, she thought she was doing all of the right things . . . going to the farmers market, planting a garden with the kids, encouraging creative activities.  But as her husband, an environmental attorney, started telling her about what he was seeing in some of his work regarding the environmental impact of some of the big oil and chemical companies, and the looming threat of global warming, she said it frightened her. She realized that she couldn’t just “take care of her own.”  She felt compelled to do something. She decided to use her training and experience as an actress as a platform for that something.   Note to Self #1:  We share the same home!  We’re all in this together!

Another question from the audience was, “How do you see where we are now?”   In her response  Ms. Lee first acknowledged the challenges that we face.  We are pouring 100% (or was it 100 times?) more chemicals into the environment today than we were in Rachel Carson’s day. Climate change is no longer something that might happen in the future, but rather it is a reality today.  But, she also said, that as she has travelled around to cities and towns all over the this country and beyond for the past 22 years, she has observed that the environmental movement  too, is huge.   Kaiulani Lee identified the same energy among people in her audiences as Paul Hawken wrote about in his book, Blessed Unrest:

When asked at colleges if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same:  If you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren't pessimistic, you don't have the correct data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren't optimistic, you haven't got a heart.”

And to bring it home as Ken Trainor did in his article, “When Unrest is Blessed,” in the Wednesday Journal last October, “Think of all the people you know in Oak Park and River Forest who belong, without knowing it, to the Largest Movement in the World.”  Note to Self #2:  We are not alone!  We are part of a huge global movement -- and a dynamic local movement -- working to restore, rebuild, recover, and re-imagine the future.

In her closing remarks, Kaiulani Lee shared two reflections which also caught my attention.  She shared that she chose to name the play, “A Sense of Wonder” rather than Silent Spring, or something with Rachel Carson in the title, because she sensed Rachel Carson’s deep respect for and sense of wonder of the natural world as she observed and explored its designs. It was her relationship with the natural world that sustained her through the many difficulties that she faced in her life.  Ms Lee also made a point that Rachel Carson was not, in one sense, an extraordinary person, although her story is pretty amazing.  Her message was that Rachel Carson took the (limited) abilities and the (limited) energies that she had and did what she could do.   Note to Self #3:  We are the people that will make a difference today, and we will be sustained in that work if we maintain that sense of wonder in relationship to the natural world that we all begin with it as children – like Rachel Carson did.