Listening Begins Here

Listening Begins Here

I’m delighted that you’ve joined me as we have come to these woods. There will be plenty of birdsong to listen to, but you will have to be still and quiet!

‘Unearthly minstrelsy! then only heard

When the soul seeks to hear; when all is hush’d,

And the heart listens!’

From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem                                                                                                     ‘Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement’

Our favourite holiday ‘bolt-hole’ is a cottage set in this beautiful wooded estate on the edge of the New Forest. One reason we delight to go there is to hear the woodland birdsong. To wake early and hear the Spring woodland dawn chorus in full cry, is one of the delights of the year.

It reminds me of years ago when, as children, our parents told us that they had been down the lane during the night to hear a nightingale that was singing in one of the copses there. They were obviously excited by the magic moment.

Sadly such events are rare today. As in so many country districts, housing estates now cover the area and these top songbirds are long gone from that place. A nostalgic thought that brings to mind Keats’ fine ending to his hauntingly beautiful poem,    ‘To the Nightingale’:

 Thy plaintive anthem fades past the near meadows, over the still stream,

Up the hillside, and now it is buried deep in the next valley glades:

Was it a vision ? Or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep ?

Special moments like these, are rare and fleeting. If we are slow to notice  they will be gone and we will miss them. That wonderful sky formation in early evening will quickly change and we need a camera at the ready to record the precious  light effects. That elusive bird song heard fleetingly, will soon be ‘buried buried deep in the next valley glades’.

The whole of creation all around us is saying something to us, but we will only truly hear when we listen with heart and soul, as Coleridge again suggests:

‘A great poet must be implicit if not explicit,…for all sounds and forms of nature. He must have the ear of a wild Arab listening in the silent desert and the eye of a North American Indian  tracing the footsteps of an enemy upon the leaves that strew the forest; The touch of a blind man feeling the face of a darling child.’

(S.T.  Coleridge writing to William Southey )

It is just this sort of sensitive ‘listening’ that I am trying to explore in these posts. I want to be ‘all-ears’ for that ‘much more’ that I know is waiting for all those of us who are willing to join the search. I want to develop in myself and others more of the ‘listening heart’, that hears earth’s ‘unearthly minstrelsy’ which can ‘only be heard  when the soul seeks to hear, when all is hush’d and the heart listens‘.
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