BY JANELL AND CAMRYN CLELAND
My granddaughter and I love to meander! When driving home from her school or from running errands, she will suggest “Let’s meander!” I will add a qualifier here – my willingness to meander is supported by my faith in my GPS. I do not recall being attuned to my meandering spirit when a paper map was my only option for a safe route home.
We have two meandering strategies:
- We put Camryn’s home address in the GPS and then we ignore the voice that tries to save us from peril. When the GPS voice corrects us with “route recalculation” or “proceed to the route,” my granddaughter loves to pipe in, “We are meandering, Lady!” It never ceases to provoke giggles in both of us.
- We do not activate the GPS (until we need rescue), and Camryn gives me directions: “right” – “right” – “left.” I will name streets as we approach the signs and she will try to remember if we have explored that one. One of
my favorite sayings:
- Me: What’s the best road?
- Together: A road we’ve never traveled (yes, I’m a retired English teacher).
Camryn’s meandering memories (she’s eight and these are her words and edits.)
One time me and my grandma drove to DQ and chose our ice-creams. We saw a road we have never been on before. We zipped down the road and we saw a road off in a different direction called Lamb Road. We looked for lambs and there wasn’t any so, we took another road. There was one road pointing right and the other to the left. We kept on going even though we had no idea where we were and eventually, we ended up at my house. That is a “normal meander.”
My grandpa is a participant in meandering if he is in the car with us. When I was six, we planned a “surprise” birthday party for my grandpa. He thought we were meandering but we were really going for ice cream. However, the GPS wasn’t a participant in the “surprise” and yelled out the destination “proceeding to the general store.” I covered the phone with my hands and turned the sound down. For the rest of the ride, we were safe from revealing the secret and we arrived there, that’s what I call “trick meander.”
I was riding in my grandma’s car in the back seat heading to my grandma’s friend’s house. When we arrived there, we looked at the house and the neighborhood we both knew we were not at the correct home. My grandma looked at the GPS and she realized she typed in the wrong address and then after that we went to, the “correct” house and that is what I call an “accidental meander.
Most Importantly (from Camryn)
You can get together with friends and family and, observe the world around you. Those of you grandpa’s out there, I know in most of the stories I have written I don’t have my grandpa in them but this doesn’t mean you can’t meander to! If you think your going to have trouble meandering your dog can lead you around wherever they want you to so you can meander all you want with your dog.
Now – thanks to Dacher Keltner in his 2023 book Awe: The New Science on Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life – I have language for naming our meandering experiences. We are searching for moments of awe – “a feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world.” They collected 2600 narratives from 26 different countries during the research process.
In studies known as daily diary experiences, they discovered that people experience awe two or three times per week. Examples provided by Keltner include witnessing a friend’s generosity to a homeless person, the scent of a flower, hearing a song that transports you back to a first love; however, one of my favorite examples is my granddaughter’s account of watching baby skunks play with their mom in the yard. These are examples of everyday awe – moments that produce the universal sound of “whoa” or goosebumps or eyes filled with tears.
And how can you produce these moments of awe? Stop – observe – be open and curious to wonders. The first time I heard Keltner speak, I knew that I had found the rationale, the foundation, for why we meander.
Whether meandering in urban, suburban or rural settings, the potential for awe exists. And the joy of experiencing these moments through my granddaughter’s eyes and her hearing my observations sparks questions and connections that create meaningful Grandma-Granddaughter conversation. We invite you to join us in making meandering memories.
Keltner, D. 2023. Awe: The new science of everyday wonder and how it can transform your life. Penguin Press.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Camryn is in 2nd grade in a dual language district where she speaks English and Spanish. She plays the piano, rides horses and loves writing articles. Her teacher awarded her a “Future Author” certificate after she won the first grade Young Author’s competition. She has ideas for many, many future articles.
Janell is, first and foremost, Camryn’s Nana J. She is a retired English teacher and district curriculum director. Currently, she serves as a Trustee for the local public library and chairs the Racial Justice Team at her church.