Curiously Wonderful

I’ve been home from my travels for more than week, and I’m still not all here. Metabolically, I’m waking up too early and yet I’m also a little tired. In terms of mood, I’m grumpy because a few domestic matters fell seriously apart in my absence, and I’m somewhat daunted. “Picking up where I left off,” creatively, is easier said than done.

So this is me, rolling up my sleeves and gettin’ on wi’ it, as the Scots would say. Post-travel adjustment is a very privileged, first-world complaint, and despite these re-entry megrims, I hope I will travel again. At a basic level, shaking up my routine gets my brain out of predictive text mode, and that’s good. On a more global scale, when I travel, my curiosity gets a boost.

And curiosity is worth more than rubies. Older folks who retain a strong sense of curiosity about life live longer than those who don’t. People who get a little adventurous with their daily schedule–trying a different piece of equipment in the gym, googling rabbit-hole questions for the sheer pleasure of learning, picking up books that simply look interesting–are likely to show more goal-orientation and persistence on those same days. It’s as if letting our brains off the leash a little makes our thoughts happier to stay on the porch when we need them to.

One of the three characteristics of highly successful innovators is that they are curious. Where most of us have a healthy sense of caution about novel elements of our environment–Could be snake! Might taste yucky! Everybody might laugh at me!–the innovators who do well balance that caution with curiosity. They go through life more wide-eyed and inquisitive than most other adults. (The other two characteristics: A large and varied circle of human connections (they are charming or at least interesting people), and a capacity for generating a volume of ideas rather than only a few good ones.)

We know when we’ve met one of these curious cats because they ask questions that make us think instead of sticking to the weather, sports, and superficial smiles. What’s on your bucket list? What’s your perfect day? If you had three wishes, what would they be? We remember the people who pose those queries, and remember even more when they listen to our answers.

Curiosity solves problems. Why does Valerian Dorning feel unworthy of Emily Pepper? Is it possible to make spray-on or feed-through birth control for feral cats? (Somebody please say yes.) What do people who’ve moved to Oregon say about making that work out well?

If you were going to award a research grant, or take an all expenses paid sabbatical (say, to Scotland…), what would you investigate? What would you like to know more about? What recently made you stop and think, “Now, why izat…?”

To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card. Which reminds me: The B&N discount this month is BNPTARTAN50, which gets you half-off Tartan Two-Step, a story about a Scotsman who had some first-rate questions about a particular Montana whiskey distiller…

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33 comments on “Curiously Wonderful

  1. I’m interested in early music, both sacred and secular. I would love to do research on the music of the Saxons and Angles and Celts, before the Normans invaded. It’s difficult period of time but that period of history fascinates me. It’s also the time of Lady Godiva and some of the craziest successions to the monarchy, ever. So interesting!

    • You would have had a great time with all historic harps on this trip–the Guinness Harp among them, of course. I was surprised to learn that the last harper to own that harp lived to be a documented 112 years old. Something about music having charms…?

  2. If I go to see a movie or watch a television series about interesting people either in history or modern day I usually want to find out more about them.So I go online or go to the library and read much more about them Recently I watched the BBC and H.B.O series of gentleman Jack about Anne Lister.What an amazing woman ,in a time when women could not vote or go to college or own property.They were expected to marry and have children and be treated by their husbands as he saw fit.No financial independence.Anne educated herself and was very clever,she was left her uncle’s estate and opened coal pits on her land she took on powerful men she travelled Europe,climbed mountains and always had a thirst to find out how things worked.In her personal life she loved only women
    Anne died while traveling to Russia and beyond with her partner Ann Walker.She was bitten by an insect and went into a fever that killed her.So much was packed into her short life.She lived two hundred years ago but did not conform to a woman’s role of that time she behaved like a man.I plan to visit her estate__Shibden Hall next year.It is in Halifax Yorkshire.I am always looking up things and finding answers to my questions,I say to myself__Brenda you are never to old to learn !!!.I hope next year to continue my bucket list trips around the U.K and discover many new things.Meet all different kinds of people and listen to their stories.I have time now and I enjoy it.

  3. I would love to go on an English Garden tour. I would love to walk through the gardens and be inspired to update and change my hilly patch of green space.

    I’d take a side trip to Chartwell- Winston Churchill’s home. Have read that the grounds are gorgeous with man made ponds. And I’d take a tour of the home where Churchill lived, entertained and strategized before and after WWII.

    My curiosity stems from a couple of episodes from the Crown and a PBS documentary that featured Churchill. I’d love to learn more about Sir Winston.

    • Andrew Roberts’ “Churchill — Walking with Destiny” is the most readable 1000-page book I’ve ever picked up. Not enough pictures, of course, but a terrific chronicle of the man and his various ages. I hope you get to do that tour, Susan, and that you get to Chartwell. This is the man who apparently refused a dukedom. That alone makes him interesting to me.

  4. Ugh, I’m one of those people who can follow someone ELSE’s plan for investigation, but I have a hard time coming up with my own scientific questions. I would make a great lab tech (following someone else’s plan for investigation) but a poor primary researcher having to come up with the clinical questions myself!

    The thing I would love to know more about would be how to leverage intermittent fasting to improve jetlag. People who eat a standard diet of 3 meals a day can improve their recovery from jetlag by fasting during their flights and then eating breakfast at breakfast-time in the new time zone that they are going to. But what about those of us who only eat 1 meal a day (typically dinner) to begin with?

    • What an interesting place to focus. I know sunlight has a lot to do with how I acclimate following time-zone travel. I was absolutely useless the whole time I was in New Zealand. I’d traveled from high summer to deep winter, and the skies refused to clear. Day after day was gray and chilly, and my metabolism just would not click.
      I got to Australia, where the winter skies were bright and sunny, and I was magically in sync within a couple days.
      Now you say it’s all about breakfast… who’d a-thought?

  5. Happy Sunday! I would want to explore what happens if we were all kinder and more compassionate. So I would give grants to people who are kind but not as applicants but as those I encounter or are nominated for the little things such as the neighbor who always takes her senior neighbor grocery shopping or the grandfather who buys the neighborhood fundraising efforts. Have a blessed day!

  6. I’d go to places my ancestors lived – Northern Ireland, England, The Netherlands, France & Germany. And according to DNA I’m 3% Swedish, but don’t know thru who or where specifically, so I’d probably need to do more research before going. I’d tie the trip into a study of historical incidents that occurred while my ancestors were living. Maybe I could even connect to some relatives!

  7. I like trying new things. Reading and YouTube can take you to a lot of places and provide some much needed guidance on new projects.

    • Sorry – hit post too soon. I would take a “grand tour,” and see the UK and major European cities, exploring their museums and historical sites.

  8. I would like to go to Africa and go on a safari. That’s been on my bucket list for years. I want to see all the wild animals still in their natural habitat before we end up destroying them. I would like to go to visit places of my ancestors too, Norway, Sweden and England. So many places to go,see and learn new things and if my budget says no then I read as much as I can. Books have taken me on many journeys to so many wonderful places.

  9. My passion for the last seven years has been genealogy, and because I have Scottish roots (among a lot of other branches on my tree), I’d love to be able to discover more of my family in the countries my ancestors hail from, especially Scotland. Though it takes time and patience, researching in my local library is available, as well as online, but to be able to walk the same paths as my ancestors would be the pinnacle of my research. I keep saying someday! I can only hope.

    • Oh, do. my daughter has assembled a famil;y chart from her research on She’s found branches of both my mother’s and my father’s families. Mother’s were highlanders from near Loch Ness and supposedly stole the occasiolnal cattle–a highland version olf counting coup?

  10. I would want to visit the Holy Land and learn more about Jesus’ life while here on earth. I’ve watched tons of videos of people who gave made the trip and it seems life changing! I feel like any questions about faith could be answered there…

  11. I have so many questions! I would like to develop an alfalfa that can be over-seeded.

    I think about tele-porting.

    I occasionally play piano for church and am avoiding learning to use software that would allow me to transpose into keys that are singable by this group. I can’t do it on the fly with most hymns, especially for those who would like to sing harmony. With computers it is possible to print large enough that this plunker can see it in the dark hole where they put the piano. (Valentine’s encounter with the village piano is one of my favorites.)

    The list is long.

  12. I have a Tesla and grandchildren who live about a thousand miles away from me. I know that a lot of people fear taking an electric car to travel long distances, but it has give me the opportunity to spend an hour or so in places I would not normally visit. You never know what interesting people and places you can find on your way to somewhere else unless you are willing to stop, get out of your car and take a walk around. It is also helpful if you are willing to get there when you get there and not worry about a schedule. I highly recommend it.

  13. Whoever invents a spray on or feed through birth control for feral cats deserves to become very wealthy! There will still be plenty of kittens needing homes, but that would do a wonderful job on cutting back on that number.

    Were I lucky enough to take an extended journey to Scotland or another country, I would investigate the history of the area by exploring ruins and the old buildings that are still standing and in use. I’d also spend time exploring the landscapes and viewing boththe flora and the fauna. No trip anywhere is complete without sampling the food and drinks popular in the area.

  14. Thé idea of traveling to Scotland has been with me for years. I have so many questions, places and ideas I would like to explore. Where great grandma Mary’s brothers really brawling Fraiser men? How does the mountain or highland air compare to that in the smokies or Rockies? Do I have the stomach for haggis? Do I still remember how to dance a fling from playing Jean in Brigadoon? Or would I look more like a baboon? Are there really fields of heather? What does a long hair cow’ fur feel like? What natural plants were or are used to create the colors of tartans? Is there some place I could card some wool? Or spin? What’s the best pub in Inverness? And what makes one whiskey better than another?

  15. I very much agree that curiosity is essential to keep going! I think I really suffered for a few months earlier this year when I lost interest in everything. Feeling a lot better now, but it was tough. Regaining my usually sunny nature and ready to learn and laugh and write again. Glad to see another title out and things settling down for you!

  16. It’s funny, I’m very inconsistent. Sometimes I’m exactly as you describe and sometimes I’m totally lazy.

  17. So this is a long standing question of mine: why, when we have wind tunnels through poor urban planning, can we not have some on purpose and have streets closed to traffic of all kinds and have windmills in the city mounted on buildings?

    Why are we not investing heavily in desalination? Why are people so resistant to consuming less? Why isn’t ASL widely taught in elementary schools? Face blindness (prosopagnosia) can be genetic or can be a developmental disorder, how do these forms differ?

    Also, on one side of my family we are conversos (forced converts) and I would love to figure out the timing of that. I know what city in Spain we were from and my dad did a genetic test and so we have some information about where in the levant we started and the path across North Africa/intermarriage.

    So much to be curious about.

    • Yes! and for another thing, use recycled post-consumer paper to make toilet tissue and paper towel instead of clearcujtting the boreal forests.

  18. I had to laugh at your comment about rabbit holing. I call it that too. When I was growing up we had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias and I could be found with many of them spread out around me, so I’ve been rabbit-holing since I could read. Of course, it helped that when I would ask a question, my folks would say, “Go look it up”. LOL

  19. Those three wishes sound like a pretty good idea. I’ll take a (no time limit) tour or the British Isles. Unlimited funds to explore every historical site I can find. And an arthritis free body so I can enjoy it.

    I’ll have to give that TARTAN TWO STEP a try. I think I have every Historical you have written, but I don’t have any of your Contemporary Romance novels. I recently won a gift certificate – I’ll put it to good use (smile).

  20. I am always looking into the origin of words. I am bilingual German/English, so I know which English words share their origin with German. I took some French at university and started learning more through Duolingo. That answered certain other origin questions. Then came the day when I thought, where does the word “rabbit” come from? Answer: Walloon. That was another research tangent. I occasionally get the overwhelming need to know about a certain word origin. I used to buy Word A Day calendars and made my son read the definitions before he went to bed. His first year at university, he went to the local non-university library and bought a condensed version of the OED for $10. The person gave him a deal when he mentioned he was a freshman. He might also have been the only person interested in the book. I definitely got him interested in words, if he willingly purchased the OED.

  21. I’m in the wrong place to ask a question but I’ll do it anyway. because I can’t find another place to do it. I remember Adolphus being off at university but somewhere on my nook I think I’ve seen something about Max. Who? On the nook I can’t just riffle pages–it becomes a night’s work. I’ have fallen off the newsletter list so I’ll re-subscribe.. /Thank you for all your books. They’re everything I want in romances–well written, multidimensional people, fantastic plots.

    BTW , in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, there’s the shell of the castle on which, I think I remember, are emblazoned in stone “George Gordon” and ” his wide Henrietta”. It had been cleaned up, but the floors were gone when we visited my cousin’s farm, and there wasn’t any plan to anything more. I’m glad it wasn’t torn down. I remember Glastonbury and Wells vividly.. Just the ruins are evocative. And Hadrian’s Wall !! Looking north from Housesteads and seeing the contours of the land gave me a whole new appreciation of ancient history. Still gives me goosebumps 50 years later.
    I’m babbling. Sorry.
    Live long and prosper!