CONNECT - Listen.

Written as a reflection on CONNECT at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

"Listen."
Under the trellis, hung by a string, floated a paper with the image of an ear and this simple invitation written on its visible side. My curiosity piqued, I reached out and turned it over to read more - "What are the closest and farthest sounds you can hear?"
My body responded to the question before I could make a conscious decision to comply. The human chatter from a nearby beer tent; the rattle of insects; distant drumbeats; my little boy's delighted exclamations at the wonder of plants and people all around - these came into sharper focus as my awareness honed to my body's particular portals for Sound. I felt my oft relied-upon sense of vision muted in favor of a different vibration. I closed my eyes.
"Listen." This time, the invitation came near musicians' strong rhythms. The pulsations curved palpably through the air, turning each body and tree into a percussive instrument of attention. As I reflexively received the guidance of the beat and thoughtlessly altered my gait, I wondered what systems the pulse of my heartbeat may direct day-to-day by simply doing its work. I swayed in tune.
"Listen." On a bustling path through the woods, the word spang from the sea of leaves and people curtaining an approaching bridge. The still forest and serene lake startled me with their silence in contrast to the milling crowds. The word lingered there, insistent, drawing me into the paradox. I let go of my distraction and fell into the question. Suddenly, I felt transported into the old trunks and ancient waters, vessels for deep resonance. "It isn't just about identifying what you think you can perceive," they whispered in language beyond what my ears could hear. "Sometimes, it's a matter of noticing what you don't know you can sense."
"Listen." As the day slowly darkened, the shift happened without my help. The sunset colors gave way to the muted shades of moonlight on clouds, and my ears began to ring with insect song. My vision dimmed; with every step, the night seemed to be calling more clearly: listen, listen, listen. Soft lights flickered all around, but the blackness steadily narrowed my focus to my most immediate sphere of connection. Soon, I could not even see my child's face - I could only feel his weight in my arms and hear his sleepy breathing. His ear pressed against my cheek.
Sound transcends barriers to light by allowing communications from what we may not see. The calls of distress or delight from creatures upon which we may never lay naked eyes can become a map for kinship with more diverse Life. As I made to return to my familiar habitat for sleep, I felt that my body carried a heightened sense of all things near to me and a memory of all things far, enabled through a slower wavelength. My cells reverberated with the unique, fresh frequency of being alive and engaged.
"Listen," I heard, as I drove home in quiet.
"Listen," whispered
Woods by the road,
Trees by the highway,
Stars above the city,
River below,
Rabbit in the grass,
Moth in lamplight,
Oak tree over our house,
Boy sleeping in his bed,
Moon shining in the window,
Earth, my cradle,
my heartbeat as I closed my eyes.