Yesterday, I sat in the oak tree on the edge of our land. Not next to it, but right in it. It turns out there is a lovely little space right in the middle that was a perfect fit. As the wind whispered in the leaves, I shut my eyes and waited for some wisdom to come to me.
Well, that is what they say isn't it? That oak trees are wise, steadfast and strong. I didn't feel very wise as I sat there, but I let my senses drift and I began to note what I could hear. The rustling leaves, the sheep in the field behind me (one of them has a terrible cough!), a little bird nearby issuing a warning call, presumably because some crazy human was sitting in the oak tree.
Suddenly, a very clear thought struck me: 'Listen with your eyes and see with your ears'. The next thought that struck me was, 'How very odd'. It sounded like something the Cheshire Cat might say to Alice in Wonderland. How could I possibly do that? Surely we hear with our ears and see with our eyes? And where had that thought come from?
I figured I would go with it, so I stayed sitting with my eyes shut and I began to picture the landscape around me as I listened to the sounds of the animals and birds. A buzzard crying off in the distance, crows cawing, a horse neighing, a robin singing. The water in the little brook by the roots of the oak tree just very gently trickling through the undergrowth. I heard a tractor in the distance, and a car horn, an unforgiving man-made sound, discordant amongst the others. And I wondered, 'How often do we actually stop and really 'see with our ears' or 'listen with our eyes'? How often do we look beyond face value, or beyond our immediate environment? If we stop talking and start listening, observing the actions of others, observing their body language, the subtleties beyone their words, are we not then 'listening with our eyes'? We are such visual creatures, we often block out our other senses and rely only on our sense of sight and yet sometimes, even though we are looking, we really do not see what is right in front of us.
As I sat pondering on all of this, I remembered being on my favourite beach with my husband at the weekend. We strolled along the beach and as we approached the waterline, a heron flew over, really low above the water. We stood and watched it fly across, remarking how beautiful it was and how lucky we were to see it so clearly. It flew across the bay within about 20 feet of a family, who were sitting on the rocks, taking selfies with their phones. Not one of them saw it although it passed so close to them. I felt sad for them because, while they were uploading their pictures to Instagram or Facebook, albeit sitting in a beautiful place while they did it, they were not present to what was going on right in front of them.
As I opened my eyes and adjusted to my visual environment again from my position within the oak tree, a heron flew overhead. And suddenly, I felt a little wiser after all.