As grateful as I am for the option of central air conditioning in our house on uncomfortable days, I love the days when the temperatures are mild, and we are able to open the windows. We have had a number of those days recently. Pleasant, cool air in the morning and as we sleep, and summer temps that are easy to tolerate during the daytime, even in the garret where I spend much of my day.
I write in silence and prefer it that way, but with the windows open I become aware of all the sounds that surround me and are part of this urban environment. On any given day I may hear:
My neighbor sweeping the sidewalk.
A single, did I really hear it? beep when a neighbor unlocks his car.
Windchimes, tinkling a new melody with each lift of breeze.
Ziggy, the puppy next door, a combination poodle and St Bernard. Yup, that's right, and is he cute, but with each passing week, he becomes more sure of his bark, a bark that grows darker and deeper.
Someone passing by the house on a skateboard.
A lawn mower, and I am grateful we live someplace with small yards where lawn mowing is not an all day occupation.
Construction sounds on the street and at people's homes. Lots of activity going on.
An occasional siren, and I pause, fingers over the keyboard, to whisper, "May all be well."
A telephone conversation. I make up the part I can't hear.
Young Maggie across the street practicing her flute, and she is quite good. I remember decades ago one evening when Bruce and I were taking a walk in our neighborhood, and we heard trombone sounds and wondered who else in the neighborhood besides our son played the trombone, only to discover he was practicing on our front porch. Probably not a great idea.
Birds serenading Squirrels chipping. The previous night when it had turned dark, we even heard a rabbit crying. Rapid, oh, oh, oh's.
The UPS truck going by. Have you ever noticed how UPS trucks have a distinctive sound?
A toddler crying, finding it hard to enter the day perhaps.
I hear him most mornings even when the windows are closed, and I send a special prayer to him and his stay-at-home father in hopes the rest of the day will improve. Or perhaps it will be like the morning I was returning from my morning walk, and as I passed the house on the corner, I heard an exasperated mother scream, "William, what have you done?" I wondered myself what William had done and what happened to poor William then and did his mother recover or was the day lost at that point? That definitely was a time to send a soothing prayer.
On these days of open windows I find myself becoming a listening presence.
I read a wonderful story about Mother Teresa in Kay Lindahl's Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening, A Guide to Enrich Your Relationships and Kindle Your Spiritual Life. http://www.sacredlistening.com/index.htm
Mother Teresa was asked what she did when she prayed to God. "'Oh,' she said, 'that's easy. I listen.' And what does God do? 'Oh,' she replied, 'God listens.'"
I think about God listening as I listen and how our listening hearts lift together in the direction of all that needs to be heard, all that can be heard.
Sometimes I wish the background of my life wasn't quite so noisy. Sometimes I wish the garbage guys were more aware of the monastery I have created in the garret. What would they think about learning to sing Taize' chants? What I realize, however, is that it is my task, a spiritual practice, if you will, to bring stillness to the act of listening.
"Silence is not the absence of sound, but rather a shifting of attention toward sounds that speak to the soul." The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, Thomas Moore, p. 104. http://careofthesoul.net
There is so much that speaks to my soul everyday, and all I have to do is listen.
Open the window of your heart. What do you hear? What is speaking just for you and how do you respond? I would love to know.