It’s amazing what you can hear when you really listen.
As summer slowly surrenders to fall, I’ve noticed that the nocturnal hum of tree frogs, which emanated so raucously from the surrounding woods only a month ago, has grown fainter and fainter. I stop to take it in, as I will do every evening — straining harder and harder to hear it, until it finally subsides.
I will miss it then.
I will appreciate it now.
The same is true of the buzzing cicadas. It was odd this year. I listened all summer for them. Yet it was only in the last several weeks that they began to make their presence known. I remember the day I first heard them — starting in low and then building feverishly, like electricity traveling through high-voltage wires, seeking someplace to expend itself — a soundtrack perfectly in synch with the increasing glare of the sun. They greeted me this morning, sounding sleepy, ready to lay down their torch for another year.
Meanwhile, a breeze blew. A perceptive ear will notice that the rustle of leaves is different as the seasons turn. Drier. Crisper. And yet, right where I stood, I was also aware of the the sound the wind made as it blew against my own ears. There’s something gentle and comforting about that sound — the feeling of being part of something both near and far away at the same time.
I walked from my car to my front door and heard the grass shooshing under my feet with each step. Though I wore shoes this time, the sound conveyed the cool dampness held by the deep green blades. The line between sound and feeling seemed to blur.
From across the street, the muffled voice of an announcer echoed from the college playing fields as “Eye of the Tiger” reverberated underneath, carrying with it the excitement of nervous freshman and dreams of a winning season.
A locust landed on the walkway. For those who listen, it’s wings have a sound their own, as well. In that moment between flight and landing, and then back again into the air. A tiny crackle, like distant twigs under foot.
Of course, it’s about more than sound waves. Those who notice the folding of locust wings would seem more likely to notice something in a friend’s eyes — that something that says, “I’m telling you I’m fine, but I really need to talk to someone right now.”
Those who appreciate the waning hum of peepers and cicadas in the trees may not be so likely to miss the tender years as their children grow. “Leaps and bounds” become moments. The twinkle of wonder in their eyes at seeing a dragonfly close up. The eagerness to sit in your lap as you read a bedtime story. The missing teeth and the mouth covered in chocolate without a care.
Listening takes choosing to slow down and be present in moments.
Listening takes a willingness to fully engage.
Listening takes practice.
So stop. Listen. What do you hear?