Listening Intentionally

man listeningOn this day, one hundred and fifty-seven years ago, Thoreau wrote –

“Going down railroad, intentionally listening, I hear . . .”

How often do we intentionally listen? Especially when we are out of doors. We may listen intently for the phone, or the cry of a child, or a loved one’s voice. But do we listen with ears wide open for the sounds that do not come from manmade things?

Many of us, in this time of reaction without reflection, are poor or inattentive listeners to one another. We do not listen in conversations, we only wait for an opportunity to talk. But that is another subject for another place and time. However, if that is of interest to you, there is a wonderfully simple and direct TED talk on how to have a good conversation by Celeste Headlee. She speaks passionately and succinctly about the need to listen before you talk. You can find it here.

But my point in this blog is about listening to the natural world around each one of us. We all live our lives close to the natural world. You need only step out of the house, or the car, or the office, or the classroom, and you can almost instantly be in the natural world. It may only be the sky above you if you are in a city. But in that sky there may be insects making all manner of interesting sounds. Or birds flying across the sky. Or even landing nearby if the setting is right. Wind and rain make diverse and different sounds, depending on the surroundings and the weather. Do we listen for these natural notes? Do we pay attention to how each season has different sounds, as well as different colors and different plants and animals?

Why not go outside today, or tonight, and listen intentionally. You will be surprised at what is there to be heard.

Aside: a search for someone “listening to nature” turned up mostly images of people with earphones on. Very odd.

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