It Takes More Than Ears to Hear

Across the room, I watched a young woman dig two cases out of her purse, one at a time. Out of the first, she used two fingers to pinch out its contents that she then finagled around a bit in her ear. Repeat for case #2. I squinted hard to see the earrings that she had put in, somewhat admiring the installation without a mirror, but saw none. "...I guess it would be good to hear since I'm here..." she said.

"Look, I lost my house months ago. I've been living out of my car. If it wasn't for my mother, I wouldn't have had a thing to eat for the last 6 weeks." The caller's voice sounded stressed, yet accepting. He had no choice but to wait a few more weeks.

Wrinkled and worn, the old man's face split with a smile; one of anticipation. He was the first to greet me and grabbed hold of the opportunity to tell me what was in store for us. "This town has been this way for over 150 years. I've lived in the house I own at 100 B St. all my life, and home will always be 100 B St. to me," he said. "The government can try to run my life, they can try all they want..."

Sitting next to me in a meeting, an older, wiser woman had chosen the one seat that afforded her the view of everyone in the room. While another led the meeting, this woman held her eyes down in thought, almost doodling with her pen on a pad of paper, but not allowing the pen tip to make any marks. As the presenter ramped up to her point, a point aimed at one particular person there, the wise woman's eyes raised in a flash, sharpened to a pinpoint of focus and began to raise her hand in defense of the attacked person. She hesitated, her own battle going on inside her, she sat up straighter in her chair, yet she held back even more. Only she had the authority to override the presenter and stop the attack, yet to do so would undermine the presenter's position. Her battle raged on, yet her control won.

"Look, it is my job to tell you to be careful..." he said to the group from his chair at the top of the table. Nothing showed on his face. It was still and motionless, the voice as even as it always was. "I will not give it then turn around and take it away." Always calm, straight and simple, even in this unusual circumstance. He stayed true to himself. A leader with a conscience.

She heard it all before and knew it well by heart. The nine year old girl's big brown eyes took everything in as her outgoing at best, overbearing at worst mother rattled off the same old tale at the top of her lungs. Those big brown eyes weren't shy, just observant, and they met mine often. Those eyes were still eyes, having clouded over the myriad of emotions experienced far too often as her mother announced for the millionth time how she no longer did drugs and was innocent of the charges that would send her to prison the next month. The emotions are still buried.

From the time it took to raise the fiddle resting across his thighs to settle his chin into the chinrest, the old man's face lit up from within, like a sunrise in fast forward. When he drew the bow across the D string, the corners of his mouth and eyes drew up in a smile. As his bow sawed away, his fingers danced on the fingerboard and his head bobbed back and forth with the rhythm of the hoe down. By the time he got to the chorus, his eyes were no longer visible in a face lost in the music's magic.

There is something about the words on the page of this book. The words flow, the ideas flow, the messages flow. How is it possible to write such beauty, such cohesiveness, such meaning word after word, page after page? I've met the man that wrote this book, watched his fingers fly across a piano's keys, felt the radiation of joy that lit the room as he played, and see much more than that in these pages when I open the book to read. The words bypass the brain and head straight for the heart. Vibrant yet silent sound, intense yet invisible color, touchable yet untouched, the words never end at the last page.

Smiling down at my dog, he smiled back up at me. His ears alert but relaxed as his eyes met with mine. "See? All you have to do is shut up and listen," his demeanor said to me loud and clear.

Yes, shut up and listen.

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