Home     Contact Us         Log in

Favorite Books - Category Archive

Reviews of books that have inspired, enlightened or enriched our life, recent or past.

Jun 14

World of Wonders: A Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective Book Review

Filed under book reviews, book reviews, Favorite Books

By Irene Woodard

My friend Paul tutors teenagers and so he has his hands in it so to speak, on latest literature.

He is a truly gifted teacher. I know this because whenever I get off zoom I am googling references from our conversation, about words, and books, and simple thoughts. 

He shared a book back in the autumn, when one of his students was writing her essays for college applications. She was writing of the book that most influenced her, “World of Wonders, In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments,” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I got it from the library, but a few chapters in, I knew this was one I should own, and share. I found a used copy online.

I have wandered through this book. I took my time, read slowly, went slowly, no deadline…And towards the end of the book found this passage… 

“It is this way with wonder: it takes a bit of patience, and it takes putting yourself in the right place at the right time. It requires us to be curious enough to forego our small distractions in order to find the world.” READ THIS TWICE!

Thirty-one chapters, thirty-one wonders,  that thread her discovery of both something in the natural world, a firefly, a corpse flower, a potoo, a dragon fruit, a ribbon eel with the discovery and exploration of an inner moment of being a human being. Her description of the vampire squid, with its ability to disappear resonated as my experience of being a teenager. Oh, I could feel it all over again. Nezhukumatathil, describes a year in high school as…

“This was my cephalopod year, the closest I ever came to wanting to disappear or sneak away into the deep sea.”

Seemingly this method of appreciation of the natural world felt and drew me closer to the wonder around me. What does a dragon fruit taste like? And how to talk to birds, which is something I have a small ability for. Her description was familiar…

“I’m certain it’s not any magic in my mouth, no special twist of the tongue that only I have unlocked. But I think it’s the quiet way you settle into the crook of a tree trunk, the still and slowdown of your heart in a world that wants us to be quick and move to the next thing. The secret in talking to birds is in the steadiness of each limb as you make your way into their territory, in the deliberateness of each movement and bend of tree branch and grass blade.”

And she introduced me to the ribbon eel with its open mouth awe. Having never met one, now I have. This one she paired with the experience of being a baby, with the open mouth awe of the world, and the dark of the morning as a parent, carrying an infant around a house in that early morning darkness, providing a tour of everything, opening a kitchen drawer to experience the wonder of spoons, and knives and forks…

Several days ago, there was the horrendous shooting at an elementary school in Texas.

This is the awe and wretchedness we are experiencing now, the wonder of now, is tragic. The day after the killings, a luna moth came to my bedroom window, at night, attracted by the only light in acres. The moth is still here, five days later. I have learned they only live for ten days, they have no mouths, no digestive system. Their activity is just to procreate. That is the so said reason. But I know better… it is to teach. At least to this student , that life may be very short, it may be cut short, it may only be ten days, and so what we might do in this short time is to wonder at the world… 

This book, “World of Wonders,” opened doors, and as Ursula Le Guin says… “First sentences are doors to the world.” Maybe last sentences are doors to the other…


Irene Woodard has been a student of the Shambhala Buddhist teachings for over 40 years. She held the post of Warrior of the Center for the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and was the Resident Director of Shambhala Training for five years. In her life outside the center, she is a student of Ikebana, a florist, mother of two brilliant adults, GreenFaith Fellow, Vice Chair of GreenFaith Board of Directors, and Co- Founder of The Shambhala Touching the Earth Collective.

Entries filed under Favorite Books

Thich Nhat Hanh: The Guide to His Works

Thich Nhat Hanh: The Guide to His Works – HIGHLIGHT

As we remember the great impact Thich Nhat Hanh had on the Buddhist community, Shambhala Publications has curated a guide to his greatest works. You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment In our daily lives we are often lost in thought—we lose ourselves in our ... continue
Posted January 28, 2022 by Natasha West
A Beginner’s Guide to the Teachings of Pema Chödrön

A Beginner’s Guide to the Teachings of Pema Chödrön – HIGHLIGHT

Reposted with permission from Lion’s Roar She’s a powerful teacher—and a prolific one. There’s a Pema teaching for every stage of your life. Here are some of the best. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times Shambhala Publications Difficult moments abound in life but we can meet them ... continue
Posted December 17, 2021 by Natasha West
A Book of Luminous Things - An International Anthology of Poetry: Edited with an Introduction by Czeslaw Milosz

A Book of Luminous Things – An International Anthology of Poetry: Edited with an Introduction by Czeslaw Milosz – HIGHLIGHT

A Book of Luminous Things – An International Anthology of Poetry Edited with an Introduction by Czeslaw Milosz Reviewed by Christine Heming Before you print a poem, you should reflect on whether this verse could be of use at least to one person in the struggle with himself and ... continue
Posted July 30, 2021 by Natasha West
Hope in the Dark:  Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit – HIGHLIGHT

A review and reflection by Christine Heming I recently had a conversation with my friend Irene about her activism: how to view activism from a buddhist perspective, how not to get caught in the “us verses them” narrative, and what guides her decisions about what to do ... continue
Posted January 24, 2020 by archives-staff

RSS feed for the Favorite Books category

View all posts from authors in Favorite Books: natasha_west

Website Development by Blue Mandala using Wordpress MU.
All content and source Copyright © 1994-2022. Shambhala International (Vajradhatu), Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, Shambhala Training, Shambhala Center and Way of Shambhala are registered service marks of Shambhala USA
Privacy Policy
Translate »