Hearing, Listening, and The Poetry of Simon and Garfunkel

 

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The well-timed pause in her story. The cough and the yawn. The lyrics to a Simon and Garfunkel song. A sentence of honest revelation expressing words I would rather not hear. They dig into me, and I ache with their sting of truth. Or a version of it.

Stretch me. Open me. Give me all you have to give, world. I am a receiver. A receptacle of grace and grit.

Because I am learning to listen, I now hear the fire, the burn, the crackle of the ash, the fragrant rising up, the sound of the unsavory too.  I am stilled by the quiet and stirred by the poetry. Every sound in the school of stop and hear the world comes to me and I am a pre-schooler once again.

Slowing down, being present and dedicating all of the senses to a moment opens the world up— to wonder, discovery, to what was once unknown. If I am here I want to be all here. There, all there. But I encounter the both and the and of the present. I compromise and meet it all. This is the risk of diving in. This is what I am learning. Both and. To seek beauty is to meet pain. To be open to delight and extraordinary intricacies of the micro-world is to be open to both comfort and joy and hurt and pain.

Bring me all the things I missed on those days when I was too tired, uninterested, too busy, and preoccupied with the unimportant things of life. Dump them at my feet and watch me weep. Noticing now is my redemptive act. It is compounding my joy. For I can’t go back, but I can move forward looking and listening and living well in the moments I have. As a note taker and as one on a journey to discover the joy of noticing, I must listen with the eyes of my heart. I must hear with a deep sense of listening. The pitch is high. The echoes and reverberations bring elation and chords of depression, but grace out yells the grit.

On Sunday I drove down Highway 26, traveling from the Upstate to the Low-country. This is a drive I know well. I could drive it blindfolded but I wouldn’t recommend it.  As I was channel surfing, I stumbled on a fantastic radio show which was featuring music from The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and other classics. The featured music was primarily old demo versions of popular songs, something other than the easily recognizable recorded hit.

It had been years since I had heard the song “A Hazy Shade of Winter.” Music, like nothing else, has a way of stirring memories. That song you danced to at a high school dance, or didn’t because no one asked —that song you sang to alone in your bedroom with a hairbrush mike—they resurrect memories that both remind, awake, and make us want to forget.

After nearly 50 years from the time it was first released,  I heard the song anew in all its simplicity and complexity. It is a poem. It was a gift. Here are the words:

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Time, time time, see what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities

I was so hard to please
Don’t look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside’s, there’s bound to be
a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned

Carry your cup in your hand
And look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hand on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convient time?
Funny how my memory skips while looking
over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka ad lime
I look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground

(written by Paul Simon)

And so I am listening. Because the world is full of beautiful lines of rhyme and wonderful expressions of what is heard, seen, felt, and lived. And sometimes it all falls on deaf ears.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

On Being Out of Touch

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These days, one of my favorite places to write is within the pages of my newly renamed monthly-ish subscriber letter—The Notebook: Pages of Mine

A sweet spot of sorts for me, The Notebook provides a different feel and format. A place where as a writer I am finding my rhythm and stride as I weave a bit of narrative, a bit of storytelling, a bit of prose. I have grown to like the way the words link arms a little differently over there.

I hear nuanced differences in the voice of my art in the letter. It is a privilege and an honor to invite you to the pages of The Notebook. I hope you’ll join me and like what you hear and read.

Join me on this journey to take note of small ordinary wonder. Peel back the obvious to notice more of the hidden. Let’s take note and become notetakers.

There is joy in writing here, always for now, at my writing home. This is home for me. But I want to invite you there too.

I have just mailed my October letter to subscribers… Here is an excerpt from my October page, taken from my notebook.

 

Upon A Second Glance

 

 

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Upon  A Second Glance

As frequent as blue moons and thousand year flood levels
Highly coveted is the second chance
I cashed in on the leventy leventh
One

My lab Wendy, English and fourteen
Blind and blonde
Crossed the street, narrow, often void of traffic
Mostly it’s the shrimpers who speed toward the docks
Their boats bear names like Mary Margaret, wait or don’t for their return
They dodge my  girl, she can only smell them coming
Age has racked her sense and sensibilities
Leaving her with but one
She wobbles and plods, our paces are kindred

My beloved has dodged a million near misses
Intrigue lies in smells deposited on other sides
Not too far from home
She is cured of wandering
Wondering cannot be cured

And I have missed a chance or plenty more
To penetrate what lies right here
My eyes can cut the surface, or carve deeper still
Into those pleasant offerings of now
And just
Right here

I am guilty of hoarding them
This is my confession

Here, by the sea I learned to see again

I use the stars on bright nights

measuring stick whittled by grace
Barometer of gracious plenty
Far from a city with its blinding bulbs
I count and count and count
Again

Gazing back and gazing forth
I increase my chances of remembering
In all the double takes, exposures doubled in my
Mind’s eye

We run from dementia by running into joy
Recording Beauty is our defense

The hands that cup the sun
Cup me

On a second glance
Highly coveted is the second chance

 

Even The Dog Is Tired

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I hear an echo in the hearts of the others. The ones that I know a little and the ones that I know well. Something tells me. Or they have told me. I would say maybe it is just me, but I think it is not. There is a wave of fatigue through the hearts of many. Maybe it is just me and one other. I know the dog is tired. That makes three of us.

Listening and engaging and bending in with most of the fibers of your being (some are reserved for survival) can wear a soul down to the nub. Being alive, fully, not just existing, is not for the faint of heart. And for those of us who feel deeply, overly-sensitive, deep feelers,  sensitized to all the things, we wear down and we wear out. We invest deeply and retreat to refuel. We love and listen and then seek time alone to find the strength to turn around and do it again.

I went to the mountains. Like John Muir and so many others, I had to. We all have a soul place. That place where we anchor. I anchor my soul by the water. The salt has its way with me most of my days. It washes into the folds of my skin, a welcome balm. My senses know salty. It is their normal. A needed, vital, constant element in my life

But the mountains are my gear-shift. The sensuous rounding of the hills, changes the landscape literally and figuratively. My breathes are deeper, subterranean below the water line. Everything is a rush of change to my senses. And I can see again. Smell again. Hear again. We anchor in and know we are home. Exhales give way to rest.

I am certain I did not hear it wrong. In fact. I am confident in these whispers. They are white noise to my soul, in their constant tickling, stimulating my creativity. Which tells my brain which tells my heart. The message is clear. Although they often come in another form,  as hard taps on my shoulders like God needs to step it up a notch with me to get my attention. Whispers work for some people, but frankly, I am not some people. Neither are you. We are fully human who we are. As we are. I need to be shaken, gently, sometimes. He always shakes me gently. Like a father pushes his child on a tree swing, gently.

I hear this banner over my life and it is trying to make its way into a bound spine. A pair of front and back covers. It is not as easy as it may have first appeared. I think the dog is tired of reading my body english. And there are thought bubbles over my head that only God can read. They say a lot. He knows, He’s read them. We both wait for the response. Most people just see a burned out writer. But the dog and God know me well. Ragged in the wanting. Worn down in the bending in to hear and wait and hear some more.

It comes in an unfurling. Messages from Him. Is it that way with you? I am waiting on more of what He calls me to. That is okay. It is just part of my humanity. I am seeking with all of myself. And trying to get out of the way. I am like a a human speed bump. I don’t know why i keep slowing myself down. But I do. I am going so slowly that I may not even be moving.

But He measures time and space and speed and productivity. I leave that to Him. I just know that I am ready to both work and rest. Listen and stop listening. Bend in and hear. And cover my ears to block the loud. And be quiet. And go about the work.

The world is a loud place. And I don’t want to miss a word of it. But this is my time to briefly step aside. Maybe for like 12 hours. Maybe a little longer. To savor the quiet. While I listen.

The speed bumps help me to notice. And that I know is most of what He wants me to pour into the space between the covers of this bound project. Noticing and living aware and alive and awake in the now, require more than being. They require rest too.

We must take deep breathes of rest, to turn around and notice all the microscopic wonderful of His creation. Rest. Pause. Restore. And seek a  recharging of our very souls. To re-enter. Without ever leaving. He provides our rest. He opens spaces and places for deep soul rest. He offers respite and Sabbath and an invitation into solitude and communion with Himself.

The dog is with me in the mountains. We are both tired. But He promises rest. Even to those He is still asking to write out a message of hope and love and beauty and grace. To the people. To His people. He is preaching to the choir. I am preaching to myself. It may turn out that the book was meant for me to write, so that I would read it.

I don’t know. Maybe two or three other people might need it too.

I know the dog is not one of the two, in this particular case. But he is a good companion and he seems to be cheering me on. In his own, tired way.