(The picture accompanying this blog is of one of my vegetable “cages”. I cultivate vegetables inside a cage in order to discourage animal and bird friends from spoiling my crops. At right is a raised bed with logs on the bottom, which method recalls the traditional hügelkultur.)
Recently on YouTube I saw an old Johnny Carson show in which he hosted the young (about 8?) Drew Barrymore, who had just finished “ET The Extra-Terrestrial”. I was struck by the way he interacted with her, so gentlemanly and kind as well as smart. It was because he was listening to her, not only to what she said but to her pauses, mannerisms, etc. He was famous for hosting with grace people from all walks of life, and allowing them to tell their stories as they wished. He listened.
I am learning the value of listening to my world. I have an enormous advantage here because I wear hearing aids, so I have two completely different worlds to listen to. With my hearing aids in, I can easily hear lark song early in the morning, and can distinguish between the musicians, who repeat complex patterns four or five times, and the “wing-it” types who just sing whatever they feel like. Both are interesting. In fact before I got my hearing aids, I used to walk in the woods and wonder where all the birds had gone. They were there – I just couldn’t hear them.
I can also hear and appreciate the loud frog song coming from the water-filled rice paddies near my home at night; it sounds like a large crowd at a nearby football stadium, except it doesn’t rise and fall. We have a LOT of frogs around our house, to the delight of my year-old cats, who hunt and play with them in the approved barbarian cat manner.
When I don’t have my hearing aids in, the world sounds soft and muffled, as if it’s been wrapped in gorgeous thick red velvet. It’s great for sleeping, and is also a wonderful option to decide how much of the world I want to hear. I’ve found it very convenient at movie theatres, where the sound is inexplicably cranked up to painful levels. Hearing aids out, and it’s just right. Other sounds that irritate me can be reduced or removed with a simple motion, such as at train stations where they keep piling on the noise: announcements, chimes, recorded (very fake-sounding) birdsong, etc.
Actually, however, I wanted to talk about another kind of listening in this blog. That’s the listening we do when we want to hear the still small voice that speaks up at important times, from within ourselves or from other non-physical entities. For example, we have a family altar, and I think I have addressed in other blogs the way the ancestors participate in our lives. They are like cantankerous old people who need to be told whatever is going on in the house, and can dispense advice when needed. My husband, and increasingly, I myself, like to sit in front of the altar to get answers to questions that affect the house. For example, he sat there for quite a while when we were thinking of moving old items from one storehouse to another. The ancestors provided good advice as to method.
For myself, I have started listening to my vegetable patch to see what it wants. The first message I received was, stop using plastics in the patch. (As you can see from the photo, I do sometimes use plastic-coated metal sticks, but I did stop using plastic string and netting, and also stopped using seed packets to mark plants.) These things contribute to trash, and when they decay, put microplastics in the soil. Then this year, through several online sites and by talking with friends, as well as listening to the garden, I increasingly got the message that the ground doesn’t like to be naked. That explains why the first weeds out of the ground in spring are “spready” plants with a lot of different branches that make a “pad” to cover as much bare ground as possible. I’m not so keen on weeds, so I do take those out, and use dry natural materials for mulching on beds and paths instead. I’m fortunate living in the countryside in Japan; these materials are always readily available, and for free – rice straw and rice husks (momi-gara) which provide a lovely golden color, and other things like cut-off branches, bamboo shoot skins, and vegetable trash of all kinds. I even bought a garden shredder for things like cardboard boxes. My garden is already heaving a sigh of relief that it won’t have to make more weeds in order to cover the naked ground, to replace the ones I took out. Of course an added bonus is that with more ground covered, fewer weeds will grow. I wonder what the garden will tell me next.
I have found that listening, or being receptive, has also helped me to find things I have misplaced around the house. This may have something to do with mindset as well. Instead of fuming and muttering when I can’t find my car key, I just open my mind a little and usually it soon appears from wherever I put it down last time. The key isn’t to blame; it has no way of moving by itself; it’s pure physics that has kept it where it was put down before, and really no need for anger (which is probably ultimately aimed at myself – how unproductive is that?).
Little messages from “inanimate” objects are always trying to get through to us, if we would only stop our everlasting inner dialog and LISTEN.