A Few Thoughts on Listening.

Our friend Glada McIntire recently moved further into her true realm when she became pure spirit and left her shell behind. I say “our,” because Glada had many friends, and some are my friends as well. I am not privy to details of her transition, but I would hope she accomplished that final shedding in an old growth forest — in a rain storm.

Glada was Canadian. At one time, she lived in the States, but she removed to her home country because Canada has a health care system that works, and Glada had Parkinson’s Disease, which she lived with gracefully and successfully for quite some time.  

Glada and friend Harold in an old growth cedar grove.

Glad was younger than me. She had white-blond hair, a translucent skin that allowed pink tones to shine through and a sort of distracted demeanor. She was, I believe, seeing and experiencing things that most of the rest of us can’t. Glada was, above all else, attuned to the planet.

Glada once took on an entire national government —  Canadian — over a stand of old growth trees because she heard the forest sing. The story is told completely in Sacred Trees, Sacred People of the Pacific Northwest by Sharon McCann. The gist is that to prevent the logging of her singing forest, she used all of the avenues of the public comment process available, including testifying at hearings. In her testimony, she spoke both as a scientist and a witness to a sentient planet. Glada had degree in Forestry and she worked in the woods.

The day the forest sang to her, she and her husband were planting trees across a valley from a toe slope virgin cedar forest. In her hearing, the forest asked for mercy, as if it knew the plans industry had for it. Glada did her best to keep those plans from fruition, but in the end, she and the others who campaigned with her were denied. The forest received no mercy. It was clear cut.

Not everyone gets to have experiences like having a forest sing to them. But some of us do, and I wonder if that is true because some know how to really listen. Those who do, listen not only with their ears, but with their eyes and nose and tongue and tactile senses. It is a practice. It takes practice, and the prerequisite is being still. That doesn’t necessarily mean sitting still, because it is possible to walk and be still as well. In fact, it is possible to run and be still, but I think walking or sitting are the best opportunities to listen. Listening at a deep level while running could result in getting banged up.

I have never heard a forest sing, but I have listened to wilderness speak. It has many voices, from the deep rumble of water tumbling off a cliff to the high hiss of utter silence. Between are the thrum of darting hummingbirds, the chatter of falling rain, the whine of hungry mosquitoes, the laughter of streams at play in their beds, the raven’s croak, the strident cries of eagles and hawks, the hushed passage of hunting owls, the yips and yaps of coyotes and the howls of wolves. A small sampling, at that.

What are they trying to say to us? Glada heard the forest asking for mercy, but I am not sure what I hear, except “Be still. Be a part of what you hear. Be one with this you hear. Be still.” Perhaps if we learn to be still, to listen and to be one with what we hear, the planet will have mercy on us.