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Wondrous Beyond Words

By JD Stillwater

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
–Abraham Joshua Heschel

Since the pandemic I’ve been growing vegetables on the flat roof of our garage, in big plastic tubs full of dirt. It’s convenient because deer can’t get up there. Rabbits, either, or wild turkeys. Squirrels can, and do, but they don’t eat my vegetables. I leave the heavy containers out there over the winter, ‘cause why not?

A tiny chickweed seedling still has the cap of its seed pod, while the tiny seedling next to it is unfurling its tiny green leaves.

In spring, when it’s time to transplant my seedlings, I loosen the winter-packed soil and I always find a buried acorn or two (now how did those get there?) with delicate white sprouts coming out, sometimes with wrinkly pastel-green leaves emerging.

To me, seeds are magic recipes. Most recipes are just words—instructions—nothing more. If you want bread, you need a recipe, sure, but you also need a baker to gather and measure the ingredients, mix them just right, and so on.

Imagine if there were a recipe that—all by itself—chose the right time to start, gathered ingredients from its surroundings, measured and mixed them just right, and incorporated them into itself to make something tasty, or lofty, or beautiful, or intelligent? A recipe like that would be truly magical!

Seeds do that every spring. Seeds are magic recipes. Eggs are, too. Actually, the recipe in them is invisibly small; the seed or egg is mostly food for the zygote to use as it awakens. That minuscule set of blueprints grows from a single sleeping cell into a towering oak, gathering and measuring and mixing ingredients from its environment all by itself. I understand the biochemistry involved—I’ve taught it—and it’s still pure magic to me.

We, too, come from magic recipes. We are magic recipes. Every time we eat and drink and breathe, the magic recipe inside extracts exactly (and only) what it needs, mixes it just right, and makes us who we are. Molecular biochemists are making huge strides in describing the astonishing complexity behind this magic, and it’s wondrous beyond words. It’s happening right outside my window, and right inside my body.

It’s spring. There’s magic everywhere.


Spirit of amazement, let every tender green spire emerging from the soil fill me with sacred wonder. Remind me that life—my life—is magical and mysterious. May I live my life in radical amazement, this spring and always.

About the Author

JD Stillwater

JD Stillwater (he/him/his) is a Science Educator, presenter, and writer, on a mission to promote science as an interfaith source of profound inspiration and cultural shift. After 24 years in the classroom, JD now shares with global audiences the awe, wonder, and spiritual depth available from a...


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