A World Wonderful and Exotic

By Jillian Smith

Has a sense of wonder for the world been lost for you? At times, it can be easy and tempting to surmise that your world is dull. When political attacks on TV, financial worries and the mundane responsibilities of life become all that is on the forefront of our consciousness, a fascination regarding this diverse, dynamic and delightful blue ball of matter on which we reside can be easily missed. But we as humans have the fortunate capability of rising above merely observing the world as it confronts us, and instead opening a near limitless contemplative faculty in attaching meaning, depth, enrichment and joy out of the things which can be seen in this physical space we occupy. Here is a curated list of some of the wonderful things that happen on our planet that can fill you with enchantment in the mere knowledge of their existence.

The Firefly Squid of Toyama Bay

In the bitter cold of early March, the Toyama Bay in the central Japan Sea is a deep black at three in the morning. Within 15 minutes however, the whole of the bay looks something like a massive crowd of concert goers filming with their cell phones. The black water dances with brilliant blue pinpoints of cobalt light that can be seen for miles. This is because March begins the mating season of hundreds of thousands of tiny, three-inch-long cephalopods called Firefly Squid in English. The squid are named because their bodies are covered in special bioluminescent light-emitting cells called photopores. The lights flash in dizzying patterns so as to attract mates, intimidate rivals and confuse predators. The squid’s yearly migration up from 1,200 feet below sea level is an important part of the bay’s ecosystem supplying a month’s long feast to birds, fish and local fisherman. Luckily, the squids’ numbers are immense and help make for one of the most dazzling light shows on earth.

Mongolian Throat Singing

Born of the huge, barren expansive of the Russian Steppes (semi-desert high-altitude plains), Mongolian throat singing is the extremely low pitched, long noted and eerie folk music of the nomadic tribes who inhabit the prairie surrounding the Ural Mountains. Known originally as Khoomi, the songs were developed thousands of years ago by the herders as they sought to connect with nature by letting their diaphragms relax and loosening the tension in the larynx to create full, robust notes that carried miles across the empty plains. The best songs are made to imitate nature, and often the goal is to sound similar to howling winds or river water swirling around rocks. The alien notes are often accompanied by a high-pitched, ancient sounding stringed instrument called the morin khur, which is something like a cross between a mandolin and a fiddle. Perhaps the greatest aspect of the musical tradition? There is a guy on YouTube right now named Kuular, who does a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”

The Ice Sculptures of Mount Erebus

Antarctica is not the immediate place one thinks of as the home of a Dr. Seuss inspired wonderland, but this is precisely what one is confronted with when visiting the world’s southernmost volcano. Beneath the frozen surface of the continent, superheated magma roils near the crust, pushing up gases that escape through crevices. These gases melt the ice atop the ground shooting the water into cartoonish, icy, frozen columns called fumaroles, which look more like drooping wizard hats than the product of an active volcano named for the god of primeval darkness. What is even more amazing than the comical shape of the “sculptures” is the secret they hold within. The harsh environment is a home for water bears, adorable micro-organisms that look like chubby caterpillars.

Our world is an incredible thing to behold full of wonder and enchantment. When you begin to get caught up in a life that seems drab, remember the twinkling squid, remember the ancient throat singing cover of Adele and remember incongruously tough squishy bears inside of gas jets. But also know that the animals, people and natural phenomenon listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. Find the wonder of the world around you. You will be amazed at what you find once you begin looking.