Hearing, Listening, and The Poetry of Simon and Garfunkel




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


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.


Get Out The Windex, Things Are Looking Blurry

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The day I started writing poetry was the day I slowed down. Well perhaps not literally. But maybe in a poetic way, I started seeing the world with the eyes of a “noticer”.

The Art of Noticing – The Series

(If you’d like, click here to read all posts in the series. There is a bench waiting for you when you return. It is worn and stable. Not wobbly. It is perched on the edge of a quiet pond, reflective and still. We’ll wait. It is quiet here. Well except for the birdsong.)

There are days when life seems to go by at speeds that rival a BMW on the Autobahn. I know.  But more and more I feel created by Artist God, Creator God, God of wild color and detail to participate in this world with all of my senses. The days I fail to notice feel lacking. As if I were closed off from creation. Removed in an ivory tower, imprisoned. One of my very own making. So I feel the nudges of gentle reminder to notice.

I am so humbled that you are here. I sense your participation in this series and I am overwhelmed with gratitude. See I am blowing up gold and silver balloon, tying them with french ribboning of every color on the Autumnal side of the color wheel. And I am placing a hand-calligraphied name card on the tail end. This is a celebration, this noticing.

Recently I sat and wrote a piece for a workshop I am participating in at Tweetspeak Poetry. I want to come alive in my seeing, my being present. I recently wrote a  manifesto, my challenge to wake up, wash off the blurry portals with a huge roll of papertowels and a new bottle of Windex.  Later in the series I will share “Throwing Off The Training Wheels of Noticing (A Manifesto). Perhaps a line or two there will resonate with you. Looking closely at everyday objects seems to be a big piece of the noticing puzzle.

Today I read a quote from Jeff Goins. Listen to Jeff’s spin on being present. “A life filled with movement, with constant motion and no rest stops, isn’t a life at all. It’s tourism.”

Can you challenge yourself to find a simple object of beauty, joy or simplicity in your otherwise whirling dervish day. Poetry slows me down as a child of God, as a writer and as savorer of beauty and simplicity. Here is my poetry. Here is my offering. Ready, set, go notice.

The Tire Swing

She has a haunting
Hallow Whisper
Invitation hanging
To come play
Suspending childhood
She knows
No Sleep
Stands as a sentinel
Through every storm
And season
Time is hers
To give, she gives
Worn down
Black threads
Tell her story
Wobbly wild
Yet anchored suspended
Years in motion
Of matte dull black
Repurposed by the sun
Hanging by a thread
Bleached and trusting tether
Thrown up and over oak’s wide
Outstretched strongest
She whispers
To all ages
Do you have time to give to play
She is idle
Alone and lonely
With only footprints
Faintly stamped
By children of the past
Worn in the chestnut dirt swirled like
Alien ships have landed
Leaving cryptic swirls
And curls
Reminders of earlier
Stolen moments
She is worn but not weary
The smell of rubber fresh from
Firestone’s factory, faded fast
Years suspended in the waiting
Rubber worn, no treads now smooth
She’s transformed
From work horse into
A ready playmate
We all decide
Does play have time for us.

Elizabeth W. Marshall, poet/writer/noticer

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