Friday, January 14, 2011


This week I've been listening to an audio version of WOODSONG by Gary Paulsen. This is a special book, and I am still trying to decode my intense emotional reaction to it.

Yes, I love the woods. Yes, I love it when people learn things about themselves over the course of a lifetime and are brave enough to share it. And yes, I love dogs. Especially right now with little Ruby in the house.

But. What touches me most is this idea that we can learn from other animals. The magic happens for me when somehow all the differences between two species are bridged -- as in Gary Paulsen's story about his dog Storm and a stick the dog used to communicate his satisfaction or disatisfaction.

This kind of connection with another species requires a stillness, a letting go, a deep listening. And since my guiding light for 2011 is DEEPER, this sounds like a worthy way to spend some time -- to be alert and attentive to that kind of connection that another species may be offering, if only I'd pick up on it.

And how does this tie to Poetry Friday? Well, read the poem below and tell me if it doesn't affect you and perhaps change your perspective about the "ranking" of species. Then visit Laura Salas for Poetry Roundup!

What The Dog Perhaps Hears

by Lisel Mueller

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;
it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.
We would like to ask the dog
if there is a continuous whir
because the child in the house
keeps growing, if the snake
really stretches full length
without a click and the sun
breaks through clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees
dry up their wells, there isn't a shudder
too high for us to hear.

What is it like up there
above the shut-off level
of our simple ears?
For us there was no birth cry,
the newborn bird is suddenly here,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.


  1. Irene, this poem bore several beautiful. I hear you on the deeper listening, deeper living and connections. I've not actually read Gary Paulsen, believe it or not. I think in the past I wasn't so interested in these connections between species as I am now. I think you're on the verge of discovery, and do let us know what you "hear" as you listen deeply.

  2. listening is important but if your heart doesn't relay the message of acceptance to the one different it will not speak. Dogs do not judge as humans do, they wait and watch for a sign of friendship. Once that barrier is crossed for a dog there is no going back, once a dog is a people friendly dog they are always that way.

  3. it may be asparagus heaving,

    Ooooooooh. This is just lovely. It's overwhelming to thing on a micro level of all that happens around us every day that we don't notice, either through inattention or just because it's outside of our physical perceptions.

    Thanks, Irene. I'm copying this one to read again.

  4. Consciousness

    simple fare, not denied
    to self-organization
    we call life.

    We come alive in narrative.

    Structured tales
    tether history,
    scientific discovery:
    We saw, surmised, tested,
    told for you to see.
    All of artistry suspends in story,

    society, politics, religion,
    myths of tribes and
    nations; war and tribulations,
    arguments for peace, for justice,
    philosophers' laboratories,
    suggestions, syntheses
    Grey matter cogitates, spins
    memory far beyond
    sense perception,
    evolving interaction within
    an eco-sphere.

    A tree may speak of self
    within its frame

    But feels no need to form
    fantasies of ancient trees,
    explain the lore of forest

  5. I love this line - "and we heard nothing when the world changed." Listening takes practice. Learning to poise our inner ears to the whispers that come from another room, another realm.

    Lovely poem.

  6. Such a clean-lined and subtle musing, this poem. Thank you for sharing it; I will pass it on.
    And Paulsen's prose plus his worldview always return us to our home in nature, no? I agree with Doraine: All it takes to hear - or to intuit what is not suseptible to our human senses - is faithful, non-grasping practice. Attention is all, and letting go of any hoped-for result.
    Irene, and all - If you have not read Paulsen's early Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, I highly recommend it. Gorgeous prose about boyhood on a farm, evocative and celebratory and true. Plus, the bonus of illustrations by Ruth Wright Paulsen. Even adults who might not pick up his YA works find this one stellar.

  7. Oh, wow! Poetry at its best: when it makes me aware of the world in new ways!! I'm wishing for better hearing, and trying to pay better attention to that which I have!

  8. Holy Guacamole! What a poem!!! I've never heard that one before but it's stunning. And super duper stop-you-in-your-tracks-and-make-you-ponder. I might check out that book you're reading too. Thanks for the recommendation. I love your idea about more opportunity for inter-species connection if we listen/look for it in stillness.

  9. Hi, Irene--late this weekend. Thanks for the worthy poem (see a similar idea from Mark Van Doren here, and even more for the idea of a word (concept) of the year--a much better take on the NY Resolution idea.


Your thoughts?