Just A Funny Story

We were sitting at the table recently talking about a hike I went on with my sister and her family to Mt. Pilchuck, many years ago. I was telling my husband and son about the boulder field where you had to find yellow paint marks on rocks to know which direction to go. And that gave me a sudden flashback.

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Above the clouds on Mt. Pilchuck

Years ago dad and I were scouting a trail through the woods up this ridge, to figure out a route for laying pipe. The pipe was going to run water to a wheel to generate electricity.

I hadn’t lived in the woods before or done anything like this. Dad gave me a can of red spray paint and told me to paint arrows on the trees so we’d know where we’d been and could find our way back.

And off into the woods we went.

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The ridge we went up

I carefully painted big arrows on each tree trunk.

Hours later we finally turned to go back down the ridge.

And dad says ‘where are the arrows?’.

They were gone. We couldn’t see any. Just woods surrounding us.

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Because of course I’d painted them as we moved up hill, not thinking to paint arrows on both sides of the trees.

So we made our way home slowly. Very slowly.

Walking circles around all the trees.

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The Challenge of Listening

A friend asked if she could listen.

Have you ever been asked that or had someone who wanted simply to listen?

She’s doing it as part of her education. So, to help her, I agreed to have her come to my home and listen to me for half an hour. I wondered beforehand what I would talk about. Even though I find it very easy to talk to anyone, about anything, it’s completely different when you realize the person across from the table is simply going to listen.

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Ah, the freedom. I said things I completely did not expect to, and heard words that I, personally, need to listen to.

She’s going to be very good at her job.

All this made me think about the act of listening.

First, how many of us truly listen, as opposed to simply hearing?

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How many of us hear, but rather than accepting what we hear, feel the need to interject, to insert our own stories, to fix, to cheer up, to change minds?

Read over that list again because embedded in that question are the things most of us do when listening. Rather than just letting the other person be, we have to insert ourselves into the conversation in so many ways. And most of those come from caring.

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We want to ease another’s pain. We want to help. We want to make everything okay. We want to share our own experiences to show, by story, that we understand. Or that the person isn’t alone.

For example, I’ve learned over the years to tell my husband ahead of time when I’ve had a bad day and want to talk, but don’t need him to fix anything. I just need him to listen. When I’m hurting emotionally or physically and he can’t fix everything for me, he gets a bit grumpy. I actually love having that knight in shining armor there for me.

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But sometimes we just need someone to listen.

Think about what that would feel like, to be given the opportunity I just had, that freedom to be in the presence of someone who simply listens.

Think about this the next time someone wants to talk to you. Pay attention to your body language and eye contact. Do you fidget? Look out the window? Or are you immersed in the moment of that other person’s story? This is something else my friend is very good at. Nothing existed outside the two of us, one talking, one listening.

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Think about how often you speak and what you say. Do you interrupt? Do you try to make them see reason, or change their mind, or give them advice?

I challenge you, the next time someone wants to talk to you, to simply be there for them. Don’t insert yourself into their story. Wait until they give you a sign they want a response. After they are done, or even before they start, ask them what they need. Are they looking for help or do they simply need someone to listen? It’s harder than you might think.

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Then there’s the fine art of NOT listening…

I also challenge you to listen to more than their words. So many things we need to say are buried deep and only peek out in unguarded moments or in the unexpected tears we shed or in the way we move through our lives.

And I challenge you to listen to yourself. That might be the hardest challenge of all.

Mother Earth by Kariliene is one of my favorite songs at the moment. You can find it on YouTube. It talks about other ways to listen.

Listen to the animals

Listen to the trees

Listen to the spirits of the earth

Begging us please

Stop listening to greed…

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The Balm

As I’ve mentioned before, my subconscious doesn’t trust me to get the meaning of dreams. So my dreams are usually ‘hit-me-over-the-head’ obvious.

Here’s a prime example from a couple nights ago.

I was in an old car with a friend and she was driving. We were in the middle of a nasty swamp, with deep dark water flooding into the car. I knew we were going to sink, but she said we would be fine, even as we were going under. She kept her foot on the gas and the car continued moving, but when we got to the edge of the swamp, there was a high fence trapping us. She didn’t stop, and drove right through the wall, breaking it down and allowing us to get out to the other side.

Yeah, nothing subtle about my subconscious.

I’m going to see that friend in a couple days.

She is dealing with the two-year anniversary of the loss of her son.

My sister passed away in January.

I’m sure we’re going to share grief and probably tears. But knowing her, there will also be laughter and stories, and I’ll leave, having come out on the other side, at least temporarily.

She’s amazing that way.

I’m bringing her a couple jars of Balm of Gilead that I made this past weekend. It’s a salve made from cottonwood buds steeped for a long time in a carrier oil. Beeswax is then melted into it to the consistency you want for the salve.

Last year on a damp day in late fall/early spring, this friend and I went out into the trees and collected cottonwood buds. Being, at the time, the first-year anniversary of the loss of her son, we shared tears and laughter and stories out there in the woods. Those buds went into the salve I’m bringing her.

It’s almost time to go back for more buds to start the process for next year’s balm.

The dictionary defines ‘balm’ as something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect. ‘Balm’ is also defined as a fragrant ointment used to heal or soothe.

I see both definitions at play in my world at the moment.

The balm of a fragrant ointment sitting jars like little pots of spring sunshine.

The balm of friendship, also like little spots of sunshine in that dark swamp of grief.

Breaking down the wall and coming out the other side.

That’s us.

With the help of those who love us.

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Blurry little pots of sunshine.