I’ve spent the past few days talking and listening. Friday and Saturday nights I talked to old classmates who had gathered for our 30-year class reunion. I told them of my life to date, and I listened to their stories as well. There was much hugging and laughing to go along with the talking and listening. It was good.
Sunday I went to mass and listened to the readings and the homily about the kingdom of heaven being like a buried treasure. I listened intently to the visiting priest’s message because I wanted to hear the message the Holy Spirit was speaking through him, but also because he is from Ghana and although he has a perfect grasp of the English language his accent is heavy and difficult to understand. But as with the international students I service daily and the grandmother who lived with me I know that if I only listen I will understand. Understanding requires an open heart as well as open ears. I pity those whose hearts are not open enough to listen.
Yesterday I spent the day with my aunt, my mother’s only living sister. My sisters, the Artist and one of the twin nieces and I drove to Jackson and wiled away the afternoon prying our 89-year-old aunt with questions about her childhood. We listened to her stories of her life, and though I did not write any of it down yesterday I recorded it all so I could get it right. When the mood hit me today I took out the voice recorder and listened to yesterday. So far it’s taken me almost two hours to listen to and transcribe only 36 minutes of the three hours of recording. This is going to take a while.
I’ve taken a break from all that and I am sitting on my back porch listening yet again. This time I hear the swishing of the wind as it blows through the tallest pines. It eases to a soft rattle as it makes its way down through the branches of the water oak near the garage. And just when I think the breeze has moved on the wind chime at the far end of the porch takes it in and spins it back out in an off-beat melody only a connoisseur of modern jazz could appreciate.
In the distance I hear the chatter of unidentified birds, and a little closer to me I hear a chirp of a cardinal as it makes it was way down to the sunflower seeds I offered before I sat down. The crows that I have come to admire watched me scatter the seeds and have been making their way in slowly, cawing in a language only they understand. Yes, it is certainly a language. A sequence of three caws for one message, four for another, short squawks for others, and sounds almost like geese honks and the kazoo-like calls rounding out the code.
The murder is gathering nearer, eyes on the seed even though I have tried to stop feeding them because they scare the quail. And although I have a great fondness for their loud caws and sleek blackness I have a stronger fondness for the quail that glide as if floating on an airstream and are reminiscent of the colors and feel of autumn.
The A/C’s condensing unit on the side of the house kicks on with a loud belch and I hear a truck on the other side of the woods changing gears as it speeds to its destination. The sounds of squirrels scampering atop the wooden fence and through the rain gutters above the porch remind me that the seed will not last long, and I want to urge the birds to eat quickly or miss out. The sounds of insects, crickets most likely, trill in the foreground, always sounding so close I could catch them, yet always invisible.
My fluffiest cat lies in the cool grassy shade nearby and contemplates her last days, for surely she knows her tumors are multiplying and I cannot allow her to suffer.
As I sit and soak in these sounds I am also listening for my heart to speak some common sense to my brain. I listen for signs of what is to come of my uncertain future, a time of certain change or the necessity of it anyway. I am listening for the small, still voice to echo in my ears and tell me every little thing’s gonna be alright.