It’s morning, although I’m not sure the time. Dew still twinkles and slides on every surface and small critters—be them squirrels, rabbits, prairie dogs, or a mix of them all—shuffle and scuttle in the tall grass. High up in the pines, mockingbirds chack-chack-cheeeooo back and forth, back and forth. 

Summer sticks around most of the year in southeast Texas, although as we approach what’s supposed to be autumn, the days swell more dramatically with humidity, each day fuller than the last: thin balloons at max capacity which, come October, will finally start bursting in the evenings. For now, they push their boundary a little more every day. “Can my edge be a pinch further?” day asks herself. 

Out here in the piney woods, it’s the critters you hear most when you take pause. Day or night, doesn’t matter. When the grackles get going for a real long time, they start to sound like little dogs barking. “Meyur meyur meyur meyur,” and I always know when a cooler day is coming because the coyotes howl just before dawn.

The problem is, pause is hard. It’s hard when your mind is (impressively) holding up 130 spinning plates on sticks, each carrying a task or a worry or a memory that you just can’t let fall. It’s hard when your gut—your instincts—are telling you that you’re in danger because…well…I don’t think our fight or flight reflexes have evolved enough to decipher that we aren’t all in imminent danger of being eaten by a bear, but instead are just living through a global pandemic while the world is on fire. (Honestly, I think I prefer the bear). And it’s hard when the tape around your heart keeps peeling off because you can’t fix trauma or heartbreak with tape, duct or no. Something has to get in there and hold it together between warm, steady and loving hands and who has the time, space, safety, and ability to do that?

Listen, I tell myself. Just listen.

Maybe trying to pause is too big a pill to swallow. Maybe it’s not about pausing at all but instead just opening a window and listening. Going outside and listening. Hearing calls for help and listening. Reaching out to someone and listening. Creating space for real, honest feelings and listening. Realizing that you don’t and can’t have all the answers and some of them might be floating around out there chirping and singing to be found.

“Beeeeyooooouuuu beeeeeeyooooouuuu,” some bird says. Could be the mockingbirds shifting gears, I guess. Or rather, mocking someone new. They’re listening. They’re listening to and hearing sounds that need to be heard and magnifying them. Sharing them. Literally singing them from the tree-tops.

Of course, mockingbirds steal the songs of others to be tricky, but I think there’s a profoundness to the idea of listening with such intent that you could help share stories instead of taking them as your own. That you can uplift voices that need to be heard. Or at the very least, you can learn a new, beautiful song you’ve never heard before—and that….that learning of something new….that really can change everything, can’t it?

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