Looking to adventure close to home? You don’t have to go someplace big to find meaning. Fill your Michigan wonder jar in your own backyard…
About a year ago, my daughter and I attended a hike with the Wild & Wonder Group in Traverse City. At the start of our wandering, the leader offered each child a mason jar to take along their journey and fill with whatever caught their attention.
We started our trek through the forest, my daughter selecting whatever she thought was beautiful or interesting. She didn’t pause to think of if it was “worthy” to go in the jar- she just paid attention to her instincts and sense of awe.
I think of this day often, the memory resurfacing when I walk through the woods alone. This simple gesture- this “wonder jar”- awoke something in me. It always amazes me how easily children are able to access their imagination, to see beauty in all the wild things.
I was a child once, so how did I lose that easy sense of curiosity? When in my life did I stop seeing the small details that can be the most important?
These questions led me to this intention- to fill my own wonder jar. Unlike my daughter, I wouldn’t be filling a physical mason jar- instead, my goal would be to see the world like a child, with awe and appreciation for all these tiny moments of beauty.
Remembering Personal Moments of Joy
I am a mama of two- now ages 7 and 10. Since they were born, and until they started school, I’ve been home with them. It has always been natural for allowing the role of “mama” to fill my cup; the love I feel for these two humans is unmatchable. As I pondered this challenge, many tiny past memories started flooding my brain.
So many of my children’s early years were spent exploring the Sleeping Bear Dunes– there is endless adventure and opportunity to learn from its beauty. We’d spend the entire afternoon climbing dunes, chasing each other back to the bottom. They would pile their bodies on top of mine, pushing my limbs under the sand.
On one afternoon, my kids decided to “decorate me like a cake”- sprinkling sand over my shoulders and weighing my limbs down with heavy rocks. Another day, the kids were determined to break open rocks on the shore, believing there was treasure inside.
Still another, we snowshoed our way around a hidden lake and laid under the pines, pretending to be squirrels. Most days, we would stop along our route for sticky ice cream cones or piping hot cocoa, content after a day exploring.
Finding My Own Identity
These moments for so long have been enough, filling my wonder jar until it overflows. However, now that they are both independent, I have much more time on my hands to rediscover my own sense of adventure.
Over this past year, I decided to let one thing determine if it was worth putting in my wonder jar; is it bringing me joy?
In Northern Michigan, there are endless opportunities to increase your delight. I am drawn to the outdoors, so naturally, my collection for my personal wonder jar started here.
Each day, I went to a trail, setting my pace to a leisurely meander. I balanced on logs, stopped to identify a flower, laid in the sun until I fell asleep. I went off the trail to seek the sound of water, ran my hands over rough bark, and buried myself in the sand. Each of these small acts of instinct was added to my jar.
Once I began, I was thirsty for more. I was awake, alive, aware of details of love that cropped up all around me. Rocks began filling my pockets; not only Petoskey’s but also those of vibrant color or unique texture. I would come home each day, my riches spilling out across the counter.
Rocks began lining the windowsills, our mantle, and filling decorative bowls around the kitchen. I’d stack them in cairns on the dining room table, as a way to mark the days that were filling me with an abundance of joy.
Even now, if I put my hand into my coat pocket, I will find a stone hidden away.
A Place To Begin Your Own Michigan Wonder Jar
These are details of my own journey- so where do you jumpstart yours? Lucky for you, Michigan offers an incredible array of experience and topography. You don’t have to go someplace “big” to find meaning.
Start in your own backyard- how often do you turn off everything and stare at the night sky? The constellations are nothing short of miracles.
When was the last time you simply touched the grass or the plants in your landscaping? They will sing for you, if you listen close enough.
As you take your wonder jar out of your neighborhood, there are endless opportunities for inspiration. Here are several ideas to get yourself motivated!
7 Simple Ways to Fill Your Michigan Wonder Jar
- Search for the top hikes in your town, and explore one you haven’t seen.
- Try a new restaurant in town, or better yet, have a progressive dinner that allows you to try new dishes and old favorites. Pick a place to have drinks, another to have an appetizer, then stop for dinner, and finish with dessert someplace you have been wanting to try!
- Visit a destination you’ve been wanting to investigate! Michigan’s bigger cities are always evolving with new attractions, and there are quaint towns throughout our state that offer local charm. I love getting lost someplace new!
- Challenge yourself to sit in nature, completely silent, so you can hear the symphony of wonder that plays endlessly.
- Grab a book from the library on Michigan’s trees, rocks, or birds! Reading about a local species will increase your awareness of what’s outside your window.
- Do you like wine, beer, kombucha, or coffee? Take a tour of a Michigan facility that makes its own- it’s miraculous to see what goes into each process and will increase your appreciation for this craft!
- Go to a local trail and pick a “nature bouquet”. Anything you see that inspires you, add it to your pile and place these items in a vase as a reminder of the treasures you found.
Whatever it is you choose to do, follow your joy- let that feeling guide you in filling your jar.
Finding Gratitude Along the Way
I try to keep my personal jar of wonder full, making space each week for some time dedicated to this practice. It’s not always easy to prioritize this time, but I know that my soul needs it.
You see, I’ve uncovered this nugget of truth on the quest to fill my jar; when I shift my perspective to find beauty, my gratitude grows. And when hard seasons come, this jar of wonder serves as a bank of delight that can draw me out of the dark.
It’s easier to see the light when you’ve been training yourself to identify it.
At the end of my years, I know I won’t regret the time I’ve spent seeking the mysterious, joyful wild that exists. I hope the memories stay with me, filling my jar to the brim time and again. Today, and every day, I pray that these seeds of wonder will grow up around me, creating a garden of joy.