07/07/2014 02:32 pm ET Updated Sep 06, 2014

On Finding Wonder as an Adult

Vito Palmisano via Getty Images

On a cool evening in Texas, my daughter and I witnessed little tiny lights exploding around us. When I glanced up, it looked like our personal mini-fireworks show. With eyes wide open, my 8-year-old little girl questioned: "What are those lighty-things, Momma?" I told her that they were fireflies. Then a quick succession of questions and statements followed: "How do they light up? What happens when the light goes out? Those are so cool."

Her awestruck reactions to ordinary occurrences isn't atypical. She looks at everything as a wonderful surprise: the acorns that form a pattern on the ground, the shapes and special language of the clouds in the sky and the discovery of a new word, like "fabricated," all are moments of astonishment for her. The world is a mysterious web of discoveries that heighten her ability to embrace the unknown. Because there is the possibility that every experience may lead her to yet another new place, she adds another golden coin of wonder in her metaphorical pocket.

Sometimes her glee spills over like errant drops of water after a big splash. When I'm paying attention, I catch a few of these drops.

As an adult, I dismiss wonder because I am not certain I am even allowed to stand at the edge with my mouth open, eyes wide, swallowed up by what I am witnessing. I am a responsible adult, obligated to embrace efficiency, multitasking and productivity. But after several years of witnessing my daughter sink into so many unscripted moments, one question kept creeping up: When did I become too busy to wonder? Is is time to rethink the lens in which I view my life?

On a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, I witnessed the sunrise peeking behind the mountains. The rays of sun produced a quilt of colors which spread across the canyon -- rose, blue, yellow -- and highlighted the peaks and valleys. My daughter fawned over the texture and the enormity of the canyon. With beauty so obvious in its intensity, I could not deny the magic of wonder. Sinking into this feeling, without the encumbrances of my camera or iPhone, I sensed a stillness. Next, a measure of calm and then the feeling of gratitude that I am alive, welcomed by the embrace of the canyon.

Looking down at the mountain, feeling the chill in the air, I realized that it is even more important to experience wonder as an adult. Wonder is the acknowledgment that yes, we are alive, bearing witness to something we may not understand, but may capture something inside of us that we feel, touch, taste or hear. As adults we commonly associate wonder with obvious sources, like nature or some other heroic phenomena. But as I expand my telescope, I am learning that wonder can come in so many different forms: reading a poem, singing in the shower or a random joke that makes me chuckle so hard my belly hurts.

Every adult can find that firefly. We are conditioned to think wonder needs to be something outside of our everyday, but really it is that feeling of being alive.