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The Joy of Being


I’m celebrating World Listening Day by sitting on my porch and just being – Being quiet, being watchful, and being receptive to what I hear and see and feel.

I hear water, and an airplane droning, and now a jet, and I see my little dog laying in the sun. I’ve always loved the way he seeks out a spot of sunshine and then lays so carefully and so luxuriously in it, eyes closed in sublime dog happiness.  When the sun goes behind a cloud, he walks over to sit with me. When the sun shines bright on the deck again, he heads back out to it, looking for just the right spot to set his haunches.

The planes are bit louder and more frequent than I’d like, but they’re not bad, and the temperature out on the porch is comfortable.  A light breeze sways the Spanish moss on the elm trees, somewhere a dog barks.  At this time of day, around noon, the birds are quiet.

Then, what I thought was the shadow of a vulture across the deck, resolved into that of a large bird with a broadly forked tail.  I ran out into the yard for a clearer view, and there, just a dozen feet above me soared a spectacular swallow-tailed kite.  By the time I got my camera, it had followed the warm air currents beyond my yard, but not before I was treated to the sight of not just one , but four of kites spiraling over the neighborhood. (Check out my friend Barbara Bowen‘s site for some of the most incredible Swallow-tailed kite photos around!)

They swung back overhead a few minutes later, calling out in their high, wispy voices.  Then I heard hawks, and some song birds and I suddenly realized the birds weren’t that quiet after all – I just wasn’t listening before, or looking.  Now I heard insects in the grass, saw the gossamer drift of a robber fly into branches overhead, a bright green dragonfly in its clutches – something I’ve only seen once before and didn’t expect to see again any time soon.

Life was suddenly evident all around me.

Yesterday, while working on the grounds at my church, quiet and alone, I noticed a red shouldered hawk on the hunt.  I grabbed  my camera and approached slowly to where it sat on a pine branch.  It eyed me sharply, but was evidently able to keep one eye peeled for a meal because although it never seemed to look away from, it suddenly swooped to the ground about 50 yards away, secured something in its talons and then headed off for another tree.  I thought it had caught a mouse at first, then realized it had a really, really large insect, which it ate piece by piece while I watched from below the second tree.

Later on, back  home, I came upon the great blue heron that seems to have taken up residence beneath a little bridge that crosses over a small creek. in our neighborhood.  My daughter and I stood for some time on the bridge, talking and watching the play of light on the heron and the rushing creek in which he perched. Both were lovely moments spent near wild things.

I’ve tended to think myself fortunate for being at the right place at the right time to see things like the hawk and the heron, and the swallowtail kites, and the robber fly a couple of weeks back,  and fantastic butterflies on brilliant flowers. And I have been fortunate, of course. These are all beautiful things and it’s a gift to see them, to be so near these other lives.

But so much of seeing is looking;  so much of hearing is listening.

Life reveals itself to those who are open to what it has to show and tell us.  World Listening Day is a good reminder of that, but we need to listen – and to look -closely more than one day out of the year.

We need to celebrate the Joy of Being daily, so that every time and everywhere, is always the Right Time in the Right Place.

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