This piece was written during an experimental Free-Writing Rotation inspired by the Gaian Tarot image above; first section Tabitha Silver, second Gina Russom, third Hannah Custis.
Birds aren’t always soothing. Sometimes they squawk. The birds that have nested on the roof garden of my building are very protective with their noise. They think – well maybe they don’t think – but they act and chirp, squawk, yell and surround us with their protective noise. “Go away,” they say. “This is mine – here is mine,” they say. We laugh – I’m not going to stop going up to the roof.
Last year it was the ducks – duckling babies and their mother – hoping – maybe she didn’t hope – that they would fly and be fine – real free birds. We watched her; some of us intervened when we felt it was right. We believed that we knew best. We couldn’t understand her mama-duck-noise. We did what we thought was best.
I’ve been called a good listener and in my work I listen with open ear to my patients. I ask questions and hope for answers that are organized and coherent, but sometimes listening is all that matters.
You are a good listener. As a patient I feel like we’re just making our own noise and hoping you understand what we mean under it. English is deficient (all languages really) when it comes to describing things accurately. Why is that? How do I know that you really understand the thing I’m describing in the way I mean? How do I know that your subjective experience of this or that sensation is analogous to mine? Truth be told, we know that individual experience is not directly relatable. I’m only guessing that you’ve felt something similar. It can never be exact.
Individuality comes at the price of … what? Shared experience? Hive mind? The best we can do is to make noise like the birds.
I speak – you listen. In our words and the spaces between our words we make a bridge. At times it is sturdy, at times it is shaky – a rope of vines and boards dangling over a yawning precipice. When we listen with intent we make our agreement – I look into your eyes and say yes, you matter to me. Here in this moment I try to understand – the best I can – what’s communicated in our words and the silences between, the song sung in our bodies and the melody underneath it all.
To trust another’s intentions, to trust them with your sacred words, is a risky enterprise. In an age where it is more valuable to talk than to listen, I find that listening becomes a rare gift. When I am being listened to – truly listened to – I worry less about the gaps between my words, for the feelings that language can’t express, and I only need to look into the eyes of the listener to see that it is all being absorbed.
Words can be a shield – just ask the writer, the politician, the overly effusive – words can be a shield we throw up to mask our vulnerability. I am lucky – I count myself extremely fortunate – to be blessed with friends who listen to what is beneath my words.