Monday, February 22, 2016

Selective Listening

Who amongst us hasn’t been accused of selective hearing.  Who me?  Well, at least once…. or twice.  Or maybe you immediately think of someone you know who has selective hearing.  Children are masters. 

It occurred to me the other day that I, thank heavens, have a good dose of selective hearing.  ‘Listen’ to the next two paragraphs as you read them. 

Damp, foggy morning.  A hazy orb bright in the sky tells me the sun already rides high.  Across the pond a crow yells out, “Caw!” Farther off another responds, “Caw, Caw!”  Mallards fill the air with a sweet mellow mumble.   A lone goose flies in low from the south.   “Honk” … “Honk.”  Its call is loud, lost, and lonely.  Most geese are paired now.  Where is its mate?  The goose hits the water with a loud splash and he/she quiets.  A small flock of Brewer’s blackbirds feed nearby.  Their occasional call notes say all is well.  Suddenly I hear loud “Whop, Whop” – one of several geese at the far end of the pond is taking a bath.  I don’t need to see the goose to know it’s a goose.  A duck sounds more like an electric eggbeater on overdrive and sends water flying in all directions.  

Morning stillness easily carries the hum of cars rushing on the busy street beyond the pond – never ending.  Nearby someone’s car beeps out a dozen beeps; hard wheels whir on the smooth cement of the nearby skateboard rink.  Happy voices of children.  It is Saturday and they get to play.  Coughing comes from an old gentleman sitting on a bench near me.  His large black plastic bag says much.
Both paragraphs are from notes I took yesterday while standing at the edge of the neighborhood pond near my house.  The pond is a favorite where we grab an hour or two outdoors and Oregon is dishing out good weather in small doses.  One side of this pond is beaten nearly bare.  Pigeons, ducks, and geese gobble bagfulls of bread scraps and French fries; the long parking lot has a mix people watching in their cars and empty cars left by joggers, walkers, duck feeders. 

Fortunately for us, half the pond has a much wilder edge – marshy grasses and a grove of trees.  Only rarely does a human venture over there.  In addition there is second pond just barely connected to this one. An asphalt path circles half of this second pond, but not too close.  Walkers and bicyclists are usually ignored by the pond’s wildlife. 
This rather civilized pond is one of the best places for me to sketch and we get a variety of wildlife photos there.  When I first step out of the car I tend to be aware of many human sounds, but soon a goose catches my attention, or I realize the coot are squabbling, or alarm calls tell me the otter had come out into the pond.  He kills an occasional duck along with fish and whatever else he munches on – crayfish? 

I have to admit the ambiance here is never as pure as being out in the wild, but it still is a good dose of nature.  I come home remembering: the iridescence of the mallard drakes' heads, the togetherness of a mated pair of Canada geese, a sleeping goose, turtles spooked by the arrival of the otter.   If I’m lucky I will have watched a cormorant gulp down a fish or the green heron easing its way along the far shoreline. 

.... and dusk at the pond always makes my heart sing.  


  1. Your writing is so atmospheric, I can almost hear the sounds and smell the air.

  2. Your writing is so atmospheric, I can almost hear the sounds and smell the air.

  3. Beautifully written and I love your paintings and drawings.

  4. Such as pleasure to read. You have such great gifts of observation and expression. I was easily transported to that setting.

  5. Ah, Elva,
    you can paint with words as well as the pen and brush.
    Every neighborhood should have such a pond.
    (Just back from Panama--many birds.)