lis·ten | li-sᵊn
1: to pay attention to sound, as in "listen to music"
2: to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration, "listen to a plea"
3: to be alert to catch an expected sound, "listen for his step"
archaic : to give ear to : HEAR
I have written before about listening, specifically the act of listening while I'm doing photography. This past October, my girlfriend, Brenda, and I were up in the eastern Sierra Nevada, one of my favorite places to photograph in the fall. It was a wonderful time of not just photography, but introducing and sharing with Brenda the places that move my soul. In particular, I introduced Brenda to the stunningly beautiful area along McGee Creek.
When we arrived there, I guided Brenda over to a place that I have found in the last couple of years to be very fruitful photographically. But I didn't have my camera with me. After walking around for a few minutes, I found myself a nice boulder to sit on, and just listened.
There was a great sense of peace and stillness as I sat there, listening to the water as it danced among the rocks and boulders. A stillness of soul overcame me. A peace. And a contentment not only in being in such a place as I was, but in knowing that my beloved was nearby. And listening to the water as it sang its song of joy gave me a great feeling of joy as well.
As the afternoon progressed, and as I continued to wander around the area along the creek, I continued to listen. I was taking snapshots with my cell phone camera, mostly for posting on Facebook, but I was also keenly aware of Brenda, and where she was and what she was doing. She, like me, had her iPhone out, and was taking photographs. But I noticed that she, too, was listening to the water. She was allowing her spirit to be touched by the gentle Voice of God that speaks through His Creation.
|Brenda along McGee Creek, October 2019|
And I found myself stirred, because I was seeing the response in her to the comments I had made about listening in places such as this. Comments about how to allow God to speak to us, to be our muse, when we are in places of great beauty that we are going to capture with a camera, or with words of prose or poetry, or even if we are going to simply absorb the words that are spoken to us in the whispers of nature.
Listening isn't a passive act: it requires attention. It requires a commitment to something bigger and more substantial than oneself. And while Brenda and I listened to the laughing and singing sounds of McGee Creek, as well as places like Lundy Canyon or the grove of aspens near Silver Lake, we also found ourselves listening to each other that week, and listening to ourselves.
During that wonderful magically ordinary week with Brenda, we had many times of deep conversation, where we listened to each other to "to hear something with thoughtful attention". We allowed ourselves to put our mobile devices away. We stayed away from watching the television (truthfully, we only watched one movie while we were up there). We talked, held hands, cuddled in front of the fireplace, sat out on the patio drinking gin and tonics, all while listening to each other, or listening to the silence. And we found, in that week, a great depth of understanding for each other. We found a willingness to be vulnerable. A willingness to be open. And we found in the other the deep sensation of knowledge that we were comfortable listening, and desired to listen, one to the other. And we knew that much of that was because we also listened to ourselves.
And we returned from that week more assured of the deep love and respect that we had for each other, and a continued desire to listen to each other....