I thought I wou…

I thought I wouyld like to share this story here as itis a deep and meanful one, I hope you enjoy it.

                        The other way to listen


I used to know an old man who could walk by any cornfield and hear the corn singing.

“Teach me,” I’d say when we’d passed on by. (I never said a word while he was listening.)

“Just tell me how you learned to hear that corn.”

And he’d say, “It takes a lot of practice. You can’t be in a hurry.”

And I’d say, “I have the time.”

He was so good at listening—once he heard wildflower seeds burst open, beginning to grow underground.

That’s hard to do.

He said he was just lucky to have been by himself up there in the canyon after a rain.

He said it was the quietest place he’d ever been and he stayed there long enough to understand the quiet.

I said, “I bet you were surprised when you heard those seeds.”

But he said, “No, I wasn’t surprised at all. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.”

He just smiled, remembering.

Another time he heard a rock kind of murmur good things to a lizard.

I was there. We saw the lizard sunning on a rock. Of course, we stopped.

The old man said, “I wonder how that lizard feels about the rock it’s sitting on and how the rock feels about the lizard?”

He always asked himself hard questions that take a while to answer.

We leaned against another rock. A long time passed, and then he said, “Did you hear that? They like each other fine.”

I said, “I didn’t hear a thing.”

He said, “Sometimes EVERYTHING BEING RIGHT makes a kind of sound. Like just now. It wasn’t much more than a good feeling that I heard from that old rock.”

“Were you surprised to hear it?” I always had to ask.

He said, “Not a bit. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.”

I said, “I wish I’d heard it too.”

He said he thought I might someday.

He told me how a friend of his once heard a whole sky full of stars when she was seven.

And later on when she was eighty three she heard a cactus blooming in the dark.

At first she didn’t know what she was hearing. She found it by just following the sound. There were twenty flowers on one cactus and they were all white as the moon.

The old man said, “Most people never hear those things at all.”

I said, “I wonder why.”

He said, “They just don’t take the time you need for something that is important.”

I said, “I’ll take the time. But first you have to teach me.”

“I’d like to if I could,” he said, “but the thing is… you have to learn it from the hills and ants and lizards and weeds and things like that. They do the teaching around here.”

“Just give me a clue on how to start,” I said.

And so he said,

“Do this: go get to know one thing as well as you can. It should be something small. Don’t start with a mountain. Don’t start with the whole Pacific Ocean. Start with one seed pod or one dry weed or one horned toad or one handful of dirt or one sandy wash.”

I said, “I’ll take the sandy wash.”

He said he started with one tree.

Every morning of his life when he was young he climbed a cottonwood and sat there listening.

He told me it was worth the time.

He said trees are very honest and they don’t care much for fancy people.

And he said he doesn’t know of anything he ever did as important as sitting in that tree.

“Tell me everything you can,” I said.

He said, “Well, you have to respect that tree or hill or whatever it is you’re with. Take a horned toad, for example. If you think you’re better than a horned toad you’ll never hear its voice—even if you sit there in the sun forever.”

And he said, “Don’t be ashamed to learn from bugs or sand or anything.”

I said, “I won’t.”

He thought of one more thing.

“It’s good to walk with people but sometimes go alone. That way,” he said, “you can always stop and listen at the right time.”

“I’ll remember everything,” I said. And I did. But nothing worked.

I thought there must be something wrong with me because I only heard wind and quail and coyotes and doves—just things that anyone could hear.

I almost gave up trying.

Of course I still went walking in my hills.

In fact, I used to sing to them a lot. I thought that since they wouldn’t sing to me, I’d just sing to them instead.

The day I’m telling you about now I was singing and the whole song was this:





That was after I had been away five days and I had missed those hills—five days. I went out earlier than usual. You know how everything looks new at sunrise. Well, all those hills were looking new.

I was just walking where I always walk but that morning I kept thinking HERE I AM! And whatever way I happened to go was always right.

I climbed the rocky side, not the path. The rocky side is steeper but I like it best, and anyway that’s where I found my three hawk feathers.

I stood at the top where I always stand looking down.





All I know is suddenly I wasn’t the only one singing.

The hills were singing too.

I stopped. I didn’t move for maybe an hour. I never listened so hard in my life.

Of course their kind of singing isn’t loud. It isn’t any sound you can explain. It isn’t made with words. You couldn’t write it down.

All I can say is it came straight up from those dark shiny lava rocks humming. It moved around like wind.

It seemed to be the oldest sound in the world.

All I can say is I was standing in the middle of that sound at seven o’clock in the morning… just thinking


and thinking


and not even being surprised.

It seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Byrd Baylor; Peter Parnall

The other way to listen

New York, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1997


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