Johns Hopkins Magazine - September 1996 Issue

Everyday Wonders

By Sue De Pasquale
There is a spot on my son's neck that I am drawn to nuzzle. It's the spot where the chubby roundness of his 1-year-old's cheek melts into his shoulder, and when I close my eyes and bury my nose there, I can drink in the day he's hadÄa sweet, sticky grittiness that tells of orange popsicle and apple juice, of sunscreen and sandboxes and soap bubbles.

Ben mostly accommodates this motherly need for cuddling, depending on the hour of the day and his energy level. When he's tired (which is rare), he'll let out a sigh and burrow his head into my shoulder. More often, though, he'll giggle for a few seconds and then start squirming to be put down. After all, there's a whole world out there calling to be exploredÄpot lids to bang, and pebbles to eat, and lamps to pull over.

Like most first-time moms, I marvel at the everyday things he can find so captivating. The barking of the Irish setter across the street sends him running to the front door with excited shouts of "Dah!" (translate: dog). Boysenberry yogurt at lunchtime is something to squeeze between his fingers and rub delightedly into his hair. The twice-weekly advent of the garbage truck prompts him to stop whatever he's doing and stand spellbound as it grinds its way by, lights flashing.

Ben's fascination is contagious. From him I'm learning to pay closer attention to the ordinary, and I feel richer for it. In putting this special issue of the magazine to bed, it struck me that this ideaÄperhaps more than any otherÄis one that resonates throughout.

With this issue we've ranged farther than we normally do. (When, for instance, was the last time you found recipes in the Johns Hopkins Magazine ?) We talked to Hopkins alumni who are chefs and vineyard owners, portrait painters and massage therapists. We visited clinical sites, where profoundly deaf children are beginning to hear for the first time, and autistic patients are learning to grapple with an everyday environment that literally can overwhelm them. And we checked in with researchers throughout the university who are working to understand the physiological underpinnings of the senses, with the long-term hope of fixing them when they go wrong. One theme repeatedly struck by this disparate collection of Hopkins people is that we all have it within our power to heighten our enjoyment of the world around usÄsimply by paying closer attention to the things we see and touch, taste and smell and hear. When we approach the world with the verve of a small child like Ben, every day is full of marvels.

On a different note, I'm pleased to tell you that Johns Hopkins Magazine pulled a gold medal in the staff writing category of the annual recognition program sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Two of our pieces were also singled out for gold medals in Best Articles: Melissa Hendrick's "The Mice That Roared" (February), and my "The Case of the Pencil Box Ledgers" (April). And freelance artist Greg Spalenka picked up a silver medal for his illustration that accompanied "What, Me Paranoid?" (September).

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