This book review was written by Common Grace's Supporter Engagement Coordinator Emma Lalic for our 2023 Season of Creation celebrations, drawing together key quotes from the personal reflections and stories shared in Bob and Evelyn McDonald's new book 'Wonder'.
Wonder: Journey's in Nature with God, by Bob and Evelyn McDonald, is a visually stunning book that valiantly seeks to capture and describe that mysterious, awe-evoking pull towards nature many of us feel. With large photographs to take your breath away and vivid descriptions from a range of writers, this book will have you immersed in Tasmania’s dense rainforests on one page, then marvelling at the intricate detail of a native paper wasp on the next.
If you ever find yourself amazed by “an earth alive with all kinds of creatures, numerous and varied in colour, size, form and detail and living in wildly diverse ecosystems”, you will enjoy journeying through this book, “reflecting on the lavish work of the infinitely creative God” (Bill Brown and Evelyn McDonald).
Each of the 44 reflections, from a diverse range of 29 contributors, grapple with nature’s beauty, using descriptions from their own experiences. Here are some of them:
“Beauty is mysterious…it is something we all feel, even if we cannot define it. It is something we all know and experience, even if we cannot name it. Beauty places demands on us, as it arrests our attention and commands our emotions. Nature does this in a more obvious manner than most other things…nature’s beauty shakes us out of ourselves” (Mick Pope).
“I muse that God is painting. Always painting. As the sky morphs from darkness to dark blues, to oranges, reds, blues and yellows, back to pinks, oranges and reds and to darkness again. From when the sun awakens the day, until it bids goodnight. He paints the darkness too” (Stevie Wills).
“When we travel and witness a breath-taking natural landscape, part of us exclaims, ‘Wow! Amazing!’ We literally take a deep breath and say to ourselves, ‘Glorious! Majestic! Awesome!’ We instinctively recognise that we are in the presence of something much larger, much more ancient and enduring and infinitely more powerful than us…” (Wei-Han Kuan).
“I see whales frolicking in the ocean off our coast at just the right time every year. I hear the gloriously happy sound of the kookaburra in the early morning, anticipating the sunrise. In the off seasons, we know without doubt that life is coming” (Sue Irwin).
“Emerging from the pouch, a brush-tailed rock wallaby joey adds another to her species, under the swirling of fuchsia and peach and azure, a new dawn for a new day on Adnyamathanha Country” (Abbey Sim).
“As far back as I can remember I felt a sense of love and longing when in nature. As a child, I would climb a tree in our backyard and sigh over the view we had across the Paterson River…bursting at the seams with emotion arising from all the beauty - there was too much to take in!” (Prue Bell).
“When the light has disappeared and I have wandered out to look at the night sky, I marvel at the millions of stars. I am awed by them. I think it is important to be awed by those things that are so much greater than we” (Betty Urquhart).
And yet, Wonder continues to draw us deeper into what it means to live in a beautiful world. Is appreciating beauty the first step to caring and respecting nature enough to protect it?
“I think people are simply too busy to stop and smell the acacia flowers or look at the star-filled sky or listen to the wind in the gumtrees” (Alaine Anderson).
“If God placed such care and value in his creation, how does this speak to us about the way we should cherish, care and fight for it? (Naomi Stackhouse).
Humans, far more than any other creature, have the potential to negatively impact the earth.
“I grew up next to a creek called Swimming Creek. However, because pollution with sewage and sediment has fouled its clear waters, no one swims there any more. This I lament even now” (Stuart Blanch).
“When we see groves of ancient trees clear-felled, no longer hear the birdsong that used to be our morning soundtrack and watch the rainbow colours of a tropical reef fade to white, these are legitimate and powerful reasons for grief...let us not dismiss or ignore the genuine and justified sorrow and pain so many feel” (Byron Smith).
“With the world facing the distinct reality of global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, we are likely to cross climate system tipping points. This will cause irreversible damage to our home, gifted to us by our Creator God - the only planet known to be able to sustain life…we still have the opportunity to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but the window for action is rapidly closing” (Jane Kelly).
“In Australia and other parts of the world, it is often the most vulnerable who have been and are being adversely impacted by mining, deforestation, loss of land, climate change and pollution…In love, should we be intentionally curbing our lifestyles, our consumption and the satisfaction of our wants so that the needs of others can be met?” (Evelyn McDonald).
“What the world needs now is grief. Or, more accurately, what we need now is to allow ourselves to feel our grief…By choosing to name our various losses and to acknowledge our own pain, we open ourselves to generously holding space for the suffering of others, including being increasingly attentive to the groaning of the other-than-human world…
More than ever, we need people who pay attention and who see clearly, who speak truthfully and who act bravely” (Claire Harvey).
You can explore this beautiful book, and other books by Bob and Evelyn McDonald at Koorong here. Wonder: Journeys in Nature with God also includes personal reflections from the Common Grace team including Jane Kelly, Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice Coordinator, Abbey Sim, Common Grace's Data and Donor Projects Officer, as well as Dr Mick Pope and Dr Byron Smith, who are part of Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice advisory team.
📸 Jane Kelly and Abbey Sim