I was up in Boulder on the Chatauqua trails and listening to...what? Do we listen to certain things or do we listen for what we are about to listen to? Maybe these should be two different verbs-- the act of absorbed hearing and the act of waiting to listen. I think I do the second kind more often. When I decided I could go a little higher and chance that my knees would not start creasing their angry eyebrows at me, I suddenly saw a pelt of black, flushing through the trees like water. I turned around and stood with my hands on my hips, listening for a bear's grumblings or twigs being halved.
Yesterday sounded like fall: gravel crunching onto larger stones under my child-size Merrils, trees whispering to each other in the cold bursts of four o'clock breeze, and the sound of almost-energy, of air on-verge behind shadows of branches and boulders becoming each other.
Recently, I was up at Schnepel Lake with my brother and a few other people, rowing through the totally still water leading into a purplish pre-dawn lagoon. Michael stopped the oars on his lap and said:
"Let's have a minute of silence."
Kevin and I looked at each other wondering if Michael was going to tip the boat or something, but he didn't, so we just sat there and absorbed and floated and the moon made the lily pads look like slitted frisbees and the pines became tall and stern grandfathers like the ones in Lord of the Rings.
I was just reading that this is something that elephants do, too. In the middle of their often hour-long fits of delight and despair, all of a sudden, a frozen silence will settle across the entire herd. They are in solidarity, listening to the sounds that might come from miles down the dusty serenghetti or tangled jungle.
During this time, the elephants are stretching and flexing the muscles in their ears to hear the onslaught of other tribes or the cries of family members or friends or foes across large distances. Elephants, like many animals, have ears that pick up sounds lower than humans can detect.
I wonder if this is this what I'm usually listening for: the sounds of bears that stalk silently, the low rumbles of animals more in tune to each other than we are through telephone lines and satellite towers. I don't think it even really matters if we don't hear anything while we're listening, as long as we feel this deeper dull roar.
After our minute of silence on the late-night lake (besides the six-second long fart Kevin let out on the aluminum bench), Michael said:
"Wasn't that cool? Don't you think we should have a minute of silence every day?"
And we all three agreed.