The Ears Have It

My younger daughter and I headed to the garden center yesterday afternoon. It was a perfectly glorious spring day…the kind that make you wish that every day could be just like it. The sun was shining, the temp was spot-on, there was a coolish breeze but it was also warm and toasty in the sun. The feeling of the warmth of that sun makes you long to be a cat and languish in it hour after long hour.

It was such a great day that even my daughter was into helping mom in the garden. That’s always a hit-or-miss thing with kids. Somedays, they are your best companions and helpers and other days, they balk as if you are offering to do a root canal on them. Yesterday was one of the helpful days and we had a great time.  It was just the two of us, as hubby and older daughter were consumed with other things. So, off to the garden center we went after first planting three varieties of sunflowers (maroon, peach and yellow. Fingers crossed!), purple runner bean seeds, transplanting a few sedum and potting up three more herb plants.  We were into it.

We chose three different kinds of marigolds, of which the pom-pom version made younger daughter chuckle out loud, her little fingers bopping the flower heads as we strolled. We chose lavender, carpet-like ageratum and remarked how well the colors looked together. We even squeezed some math in there…”if you have 5 packs of 6 marigolds, how many plants in total are there? And if you want to plant an equal number on each side of the path, how many on each side?”. I secretly patted myself on the back for them impromptu learning session. Most of the time I’m thinking about “how quickly can we complete the errand?”, not “what can we learn along the way?”. I’ve been trying to do this more and more, since I see our educational system disintegrating into a series of financially-motivated student tests instead of project-oriented and real-time learning and exploration.

As we wove through the rows of plants, some standing at attention in their little pots, other cascading over the rims in a relaxed fashion, there were a fair amount of statuary mixed in between the greens. Cement birds perched on a birdbath-type bowl, a gnome sitting in a meditative state (“om gnome”, I deemed him) and many Buddhas, who seems to have hit the mainstream. Somehow it almost seems somewhat sacriligious, but maybe not. I haven’t decided about this one yet.

There were about six different buddhas. A big head peeking out from between ferns. A large full-body version sitting next to a fountain. The bigger one caught my daughter’s attention.

“Mom, why does he have such big ears?”

“Because Buddha is a good listener and wants to teach others to be good listeners, too”.

“Huh. Cool.”

Big ears. Big listening. I thought about this on and off for the rest of the day, especially given a conversation I had recently with someone. This person talked and talked, not even really hellos or good byes, stuff in between. It wasn’t that it was a bad conversation or even a hellaciously boring one. (we’ve all been in those…you see the person’s mouth moving but all you are really thinking about it an exit strategy). After it ended, though,  I realized that not once did this person actually say one of the simplest things that someone can say…”How are you?”.

There was no inquiry. No interest. Just a talking “to” and not a “speaking with”, which then in turn lead to “no listening”.

No want for ears on that one.

This is such a simple thing, to truly listen. Or, I guess, to even want to listen in the first place.

How are you?

There are those that fail to ask this question, there are those who merely ask the question out of polite habit or reflex, but then there are those who not only think to ask the question but who also genuinely want to stick around and hear the answer.

That is a gift. Something to work on in our increasingly narcissistic society. I’ll be the first person to admit that I need to be a better listener. Even my kindergarten teacher remarked on this uh, 39 years ago. “Life is a constant learning process” is my only defense. We’ve all heard that old saying about why we have two ears and one mouth-Listen more, speak less.

Good words to listen to.



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