West Virginia Morning: Listen


I slept until nearly eight a.m. this morning, which is unusual on my days off—so many things to be done. Jeff has been sleeping a little later on these days too—he’s in-between jobs right now, focusing on contract work, which has a more flexible schedule. I’m growing fond of having his body still heavy beside me in the wee hours of morning, reaching over to find him there when he is usually gone. Something about his presence lulls my sleep into a happy state of prolong.

But I am lifted out of sleep by a soft rain whispering against the roof today. There is nothing to stop me from stepping out in it; so I do, with Bonnie, and every baptized leaf is a mirror for the white light of morning.

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says that writing is “90 percent listening.” I think of this as I my feet visit the font of grass in our back yard. “You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you,” she says.

When we were on holiday, a Brown Thrasher became familiar with the quiet of our empty yard. Usually shy, these birds with the brown-spotted breasts get their name from the robust way they search for food in the underbrush, thrashing about in search of insects or fallen berries and nuts. While we were away, this young bird has grown bold, foraging on our open lawn, grousing about under my finch feeder for fallen tidbits of sunflower.

This morning I glimpse him as we round the house, taking wing at just the hint of our presence. He disappears behind the lilac bush and I wait, listening.

“If you can capture the reality around you,” Natalie says, “your writing needs nothing else. You don’t only listen to the person speaking to you across the table, but simultaneously listen to the air, the chair, and the door. And go beyond the door. Take in the sound of the season, the sound of the color coming in through the windows. Listen to the past, future, and present right where you are. Listen with your whole body, not only with your ears, but with your hands, your face, and the back of your neck … This kind of deep, nonevaluative listening awakens stories and images inside you.”

Again, the quick thrum of wing pushing against invisible air, the soft landing and swish of a light-studded lilac branch. Metallic scent of rain, thick with clover, wet grass licking my ankles. The moist air clings to my skin and I bisect the earth rushing beneath me, a vertical axis with no beginning, no end.

Listen. Listen. Listen.

What do you hear?



  1. Paula Gamble says

    I love listening to your voice, Laura. You inspire me! Right now, I hear my methodical breathing from a much needed nap, the hum of my fan, kids discussing a cartoon in the living room while others laugh and splash in the pool. It’s a good summer day!

  2. Mary Gemmill says

    Laura…I loved listening to you today, and loved what I heard 🙂

    My Word for this year is LISTEN.

    When I am listening to people, sometimes I am also listening to God and to what He is wanting me to say to them to encourage them.

    He loves being with you as you listen to signs of life in and round you in the early mornings, as you seek Him.

    He loves it that you are a ” noticer “.

    So many things He creates go unnoticed, so when he finds one who stops to notice, a thrill of joy rushes through His enormous heart. I expect He is so thrilled to meet you in the early morning that he arranges for certain things to appear, just to let you know He is right there with you.

    He uses birds for me, daily. I didn’t use to notice either, but through reading your blog of recent years I have come to notice His love-notes strewn across my path, that I asked Him to alert me to.

    Your writing has blessed me deeply dear Laura, as did you Wings of Klaio books.

    May God , ever present with you, fill you with joy morning by morning as you and He begin each day together.


    • says

      Mary, you are such a blessing to me. Thank you for these kind and insightful words. Your friendship has been a gift from God over the miles! Thank you for your dear heart.


  1. […] writing book I’m working through has inspired me to listen better. I’ve started Writing Down the Bones several times, but this time around I’m committed to […]

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