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Listening Differently

“When I was walking in the mountains with the Japanese man and began to hear the water, he said, “What is the sound of the waterfall?” “Silence,” he finally told me. The stillness I did not notice until the sound of water falling made apparent the silence I had been hearing long before.” – Jack Gilbert, Happening Apart From What’s Happening Around It

When my children were younger and my career path meant something different, I didn’t listen as well. I was focused on other things, or perhaps distracted, or just trying to make sense of it all. I’m not sure an extra decade or two makes much of a difference in listening, but reading a poem early in the morning seems to help. The nest is empty now, but the walls still echo, and the kids are out there in the world. You know they’re out there; you can hear them in the silence. When you see them again the essence is the same, but they’ve changed and so have you. And that’s as it should be.

When Bodhi was still with us back in those days of chaos, I’d get him stirred up by looking out the window and asking loudly “Who’s that?!” He’d pop up and run from window to window to see what he was missing, and not seeing it scratch at the door to be let out. He’d burst outside, bark his presence, realize he wasn’t missing out on anything after all and go pee on the lawn and go lie down. There are days when my writing feels like the Bodhi ritual. The thoughts have always been there, looking to break free and see the light of the world. Writing every day forces me, reluctantly at times, to let them see the light. And in the writing other thoughts grow, like a seedling breaking the ground and reaching ever upward. We all have so much to say, don’t we?

Outside I hear my friend the Carolina Wrenn singing her now familiar song. Other birds are singing as well, and the feeder is busy with chatter and flurry. The sun has broken over the horizon and announces that it’s best to move on. The roar of things to do today grows louder in my head. I know this sound too, and push forward before the spell is broken once again. Too late; the roar of the waterfall has broken the silence.

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