Learning to Listen Through Nature

Dear Reader:

It wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I remembered how to listen again with plants as my teachers… it was the spring my backyard garden evolved from a dream to reality.

By that fall I was, not only, talking to my newly planted flowers and bushes, but also Eva Cate’s maple tree sapling. It took me immediately back to my childhood-reading and communicating all my thoughts to the crabapple tree -my childhood sanctuary-like my garden is now.

Plants and trees are the best teachers for listening… it is only now that I recall their whispered lessons. As a child-if I needed to pour out my troubles… it was the crabapple tree that would selflessly sit with me for as long as needed to learn another lesson in life. It wasn’t until I started talking to my garden plants again that I realized I had paid a high price for the absence-I had lost an important connection with myself! It is a prime example of listening meditatively.

Native-Americans intuitively knew the importance of talking and listening to all of Mother Nature. This is illustrated in the 1995 Disney classic-Pocahontas.

Responsive listening is listening meditatively backwards-rather than listening to understand our own needs-it is listening to understand the needs of others. This involves one of the hardest listening skills in gardening, as in trying to figure out out why a plant, flower, or tree is struggling-are they trying to tell us we have over or under-watered , too much or too little sun… wrong soil or location?

People are just as hard to interpret. If everyone stated their feelings or needs clearly… helping would be easier. It requires more than hearing another’s words. One has to recognize a person’s individualized style of expression, body language and interpreting information.

Finally… listening empathically-this requires a deep connection to another life while being able to also disconnect. Even though our first instinct is to help another human being… empathic listening means listening without interference. Instead we should use our presence, empathy, suggestions as props but we must let them lead. Plants are much better at this than people.

So until tomorrow… For many of us… turning to our gardens and plants has helped us reconnect to ourselves again and it is where I feel God’s presence most closely.

Today is my favorite day-Winnie the Pooh

*** Even Eeyore understands the importance of listening to plants.

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Learning to Listen Through Nature

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Becky …this is so true. When we visited Middleton Gardens again I stood at the huge old oak tree and thought about the stories it could share from over a thousand yrs…and the quietness of the gardens soothes the soul. We got a membership so as soon as it gets cooler I want to take you with me…

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