Monday, May 4, 2009

Are you listening?

My daughter is learning about the five senses this week in daycare. She seems especially focused on hearing. She's always been one to ask "What's that sound," but now she's more attentive to subtler sounds. Listening to the world with her, mentally borrowing her fresh, young ears has got me thinking about this awesome sense - how much we use it subconsciously and how much we ignore the wonders it can bring us.

I think we ignore our hearing sometimes because we live in such a noisy world; right now I'm sitting in my office, listening to the clickety-clack of my fingers on the keyboard, my home's A/C air intake, and the ridiculously loud tick-tock of the clock on the wall. I would classify the latter two of the three sounds as moderately annoying.

I know I'm not the only one who sometimes gets the feeling that you'd like to have a mute button for life. Or at least the ability to tell all noise (not just toddlers and husbands, but splashing dishwashers and buzzing microwaves and TV commercials featuring overly-excited salesmen who've obviously been told that product sales are directly related to the volume of their voices) to "Shhhhhh!"

I think all of the noise we have to filter through all day makes us tired. It's just too much input.

On the other hand, when I throw open my office window, the sounds I hear make me at once excited, intrigued, and peaceful. Come to think of it, hang on, I'll open that window right now. . .

Okay, the first thing I hear kind of detracts from the point - it's the morning traffic on the mildly major road we live right next to. (Here's a piece of free advice: if you can avoid it, don't buy the model home that's at the beginning of a subdivision, right next to a mildly major road.)

Ah, but now here comes the reward. Above the traffic I hear the peeping of baby birds in my neighbor's live oak tree. I hear the rumble and crackle of distant thunder, warning of the approaching storm.

And, somehow, these sounds are changed by the high humidity and still air. It sounds like a rainy day even though the rain hasn't made it here yet.

I hear the quiet cheeps of mourning doves and the trills of titmice and chickadees who frequent my bird feeder.

These nature sounds make me breathe deeper, relax my tensed shoulders, close my eyes and pay attention to all of my less-used senses. They all deserve some positive input.

When the rain comes, I'll give them a treat by going outside, feeling the rain on my upturned palms and tasting the big, fresh drops on my tongue. I'll see the rain and let my eyes focus on the middle distance. (These eyes do a lot of focusing and examining for my macro photos, they deserve a break.) And, breathing deeply, I'll smell the ozone created by the lightning and the loveliness of wet leaves and forest floors.

Then I'll really have something to tell my daughter about. She is an excellent listener.

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