William D. Waltz

from The Word Wonder

I’m pretty sure it was Bugs Bunny who introduced me to the Seven Wonders of the World. I was eight or nine when, one Saturday morning, Bugs caravanned past the Great Pyramid of Giza astride a ridiculously smug-looking camel. A year or two later, I inherited a set of encyclopedias from some distant relative and promptly dove in. It may or may not have been the thin yellow pages or the stale smell of old glue, but there was something alluring about those tomes. It was if they were sacred vessels conveying all of the world’s ancient knowledge and wisdom, and, in way, they were.

Although they were reference books, I didn’t actually refer to them, i.e., look up particular things on specific pages, so much as I explored them, taking my chances, spinning the Wheel of Fortune, and opening a randomly selected volume to a randomly selected page. The not knowing where I would land and the subsequent discovery were part of my encyclopedic pleasure. Sometimes I’d open to a page of little interest and sometimes I’d find myself hunting wooly mammoths or a few miles above Tintern Abbey, and of course, I came upon the pyramids of Egypt. And, from there, I became acquainted with the other six Wonders, all of which were captivating to one degree or another, but I was left to ponder why only seven. Why not Victoria Falls or the Taj Mahal? These books were overflowing with wonders as was life itself. Why not a million wonders?