Deep Cuts: Screen Smiles and World of Wonders
Hello, friends, and welcome to another edition of Deep Cuts! In this series, we dive in with some of our authors and discuss the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the composition and production of their books. We’re doing things a smidge differently this month—in a moment, I’ll hand the mic over fully to Aimee Nezhukumatathil, who will take us on an audiovisual tour of some favorite featured friends from her new essay collection, World of Wonders.
But let me gush for just a sec: I admire World of Wonders so much. By moving through the world with an eye primed for detailed observation, Nezhukumatathil honors every resident of our shared planet, unstitching the boundaries of the word “wonder” into something truly inclusive and entire. The videos curated below do a similar kind of work; watching them, I’m shoehorned out of my own lonely head and reminded of how much around us glimmers, even in the absence of light. Swoon.
But enough from me. Aimee—take it away!
Screen Smiles and WoW: An Online Compendium of Even More Wonder
One of the most exciting aspects of working on this book is seeing how the insanely talented Fumi Mini Nakamura’s illustrations gave extra life and pop to so many of the twenty-eight natural wonders in my essay collection. But because so many of us are stuck in our homes or have limited ability to be outdoors right now, I wanted to share a sort of wonder compendium and addendum—perhaps more like a visual ‘NOTES’ section for my book.
Here, then, is a visual/sound-track to enhance your reading. My hope is that when you bounce around these links, a curiosity and a hunger to want to know more about these wonders will spark a new metaphor, or give you a bit of comfort these difficult days. Maybe even feel a little less lonely in the world. My hope, my friend—is to share a bit more wonder with you:
1. FIREFLIES: We stopped very close to this spot in the opening essay of my book. I was in junior high and tromping through the middle of Tennessee with my family and all I wanted to do is be inside a hotel with air-conditioning but wow, when you see a light show like this, all petulant teenaged impatience evaporates.
2. COMB JELLY: I traveled to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2002 for research on sea nettles and kelp forests for my poetry, but there in the darkness of the watery exhibits, I stopped in my tracks when I saw these little ones and have been obsessed ever since.
3. AXOLOTL: World’s Cutest Yawn—need I say more?
4. VAMPIRE SQUID: Just in time for Halloween, why not send a spooky greeting featuring this guy to a pal you haven’t seen in awhile?
5. FLAMINGO: Fast forward to 1:12 to see the signature ‘march’ of a flamboyance of flamingos (yes, that’s the actual group name).
6. I’d be remiss to not show the thigmonasty movement of the TOUCH-ME-NOT PLANT, a plant I first encountered when I was in kindergarten and have never forgotten. Now that I can’t go to botanical gardens during a pandemic, I’m glad for a video like this to remind me this is the very first plant I can remember squealing over in sheer delight. Can you picture six-year-old Aimee, breaking free of the hand hold of her mom or dad, rushing to touch all of these leaves at the Chicago Botanical Gardens?
7. FIREFLIES (REDUX): this is Iowa (not Mississippi) but it’s the closest thing to how my family experienced fireflies on the former estate of the John Grisham family here in Oxford—our very first year in Mississippi. As the notes say on the video, best viewed at night with all lights turned off and music turned up.