Thunder awakes the night sky. Heavy raindrops come. Then the wind. Last of all, lightening.
I should be asleep right now but I’m glad I’m not. I’m glad I’m up to listen to this final rainstorm of May. Yet how long will I listen? All too soon, the sounds will fade into the background. I will become immersed in my writing. In spite of good intentions, I won’t listen.
I confess to being a lazy listener. It comes from thinking I know what will be said. My husband was guilty of this crime yesterday morning – I told him I had fed the poodles before coming back to bed at five a.m. – he thought I told him to feed the poodles. So making like hobbits, the poodles enjoyed second breakfast.
In my online writing class last month, I learned that listening is the most important thing I can do to write well. In fact, my teacher stressed that listening is more important than writing everyday. Taking her words to heart, I’m trying to listen a little closer to my world these days.
Yesterday afternoon, while walking from our car to the Paseo Art Festival, I enjoyed a frolic of a conversation between a black woman in a wheelchair and her chatty male neighbor. I needed pen and paper to get the proper nuances of speech down. So foreign were their expressions and words, it was like listening to a different language. Just like when I travel abroad, I heard music rather than lyrics. But even without the actual words, the memory of their cadence is richer than a hot fudge sundae.
Walking behind the fast-moving power scooter, the woman appeared to have lost her legs. Maybe that’s what I expected to see. When I caught up with her at the corner visiting a few more neighbors, I saw her legs were intact. Sort of like my ears, her legs weren’t working as they ought, doing their intended job, though they were there all the same.
It’s still raining, but just barely. In spite of good intentions, I’ve missed the heart of this quick, not quite summer storm. But I enjoyed what I heard of it. I need to tune into life more often.
I need to tune into the source of life more often too. Of late, listening to God is the hardest work of all. I don’t want to be still. I don’t want to think. I just want to do. Keep my hands busy so my mind doesn’t have time to think. And what am I avoiding? Well, the hard work of grieving of course.
Grieving is the worst sort of listening. One wakes up to realize that we don’t have forever in this world, that we are strangers speaking a strange tongue in a world that is not ultimately our own. We wake to find we’ve no more opportunities to hear that much loved voice and the stories it told. We wake to see we’ve taken for granted our loved one’s life and their presence in our own.
We wake to see that we let too many raindrops slip through our fingers without ever attempting to hold them in our hands. Our hands are dry rather than wet with failed attempts. My hands should be wet with failures. My hands should be wet with life.
I should be wet behind the ears. Being wet behind the ears — that is, to take in everything as a young child — is not necessarily a bad thing, though we speak of it as if it were. Being wet behind the ears goes hand in wet hand with the nature of listening.
Kara Sanders said:
That looks like Grandma Carol’s hand.
Kara, you’re right. They do.
I’ve always described my hands as ‘capable.’ And whose hands were more capable than Grandma Carol’s? No one that I can name.
Your reference to “lazy listening” threw me straight back into the 70s – all of the Mrshall McLuhan business. Did you ever hear of the concept of “duologue”. Duologues involved two people, both speaking and neither listening.
According to some, the perfect duologue would be two television sets, turned on and facing one another. I fear the dynamic is alive and well!
I think your writing instructor’s on to something, saying listening is more important than writing every day. One of my own great insights came when I realized “listening” isn’t the same as “thinking about”. Sometimes it’s enough to just hang immersed and silent in the flow of language, and let it carry us where it will.
I just carried that last paragraph over to my “blog snippets” file for safekeeping and a little more thought, and ran smack into this from Joseph Conrad:
“In order to move others deeply we must deliberately allow ourselves to be carried away beyond the bounds of our normal sensibility.”
Loved your Joseph Conrad treasure from your ‘snippet box’. Thanks for sharing.
And though I’ve never heard of duologue, I’ve, of course, witnessed it — and been a participant of it — so many times.
But why is it that I now hear Thornton Wilder’s character Emily — from the pages of “Our Town” — talk about how no one listens to anyone else.
And from this dot, I jump to another, that favorite book of daily meditations of mine from Frederick Buechner, “Listening to Your Life.”
No listen…. no life? Are these two dots connected? Listen deeply, live deeply.