Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

June 12, 2013 @ 7:32 pm | Filed under:


Ah, June…that lovely time of year when mothers everywhere are driven to a frazzle by endless activities, gatherings, ceremonies, and general running-around. I guess I’ve been maybe a bit…distracted?…lately? Dithered? Headless-chickened?

At least so I gather from the moment I had with my eerily perceptive seven-year-old this morning.

“Mommy, will you come outside with me for a minute?”

“Okay,” I toss over my shoulder, en route to the room with the printer. “Just let me do this one thing—” which of course turned into three things. Maybe four. Half a dozen max.

Finally, though, I told her, Okay, how about now. She took me by the hand and led me to the backyard. Paused at the edge of the lawn, looking out across the grass at the butterfly garden, the bird feeder, the trees beyond.

“See,” she said solemnly, all business, “I was noticing our mornings have been grumpy this week. People have seemed…tense. Now: listen. What do you hear?”

I’m breathless. She has this preternaturally serene expression on her usually animated little face: positively Charles Wallace.

“Birdsong,” I venture. Fluty house sparrows, a persistent scrub jay, the operatic mockingbird.

“Right,” she nods. “The music of nature.”

I’m hiding a smile. She’s so very serious. Any minute now she’ll call me Grasshopper.

“Now breathe deep,” instructs this tiny guru. “What do you smell?”

It’s a rare overcast day. You can hear the grass singing to the clouds, yearning for rain.

I’m feeling very humble now. “The good smell of green growing things?” I murmur.

“Yes,” says the seven-year-old. “Life.”

Point taken, Master Po.

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16 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Avatar

    Melissa Wiley says:

    There’s an addendum to this story. The Grasshopper/Master reference only occurred to me as I was writing it. I got to the bottom and didn’t know (never having watched much Kung Fu) what Grasshopper called his master. I went to Wikipedia and skimmed, and caught my breath over this scrap of dialogue:

    Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
    Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
    Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
    Caine: No.
    Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
    Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
    Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

    This is a child who, to the best of my knowledge, has never seen so much as a snippet of that show. Goosebumps.

    (Obviously, I knew then what to title the post.)

  2. Avatar

    Chari says:


    So very insightful. You may have had grumpy mornings lately…..but until then…she has had the proper environment for growing these thoughts. Well done, Mama. Now…no more grumpy mornings this week! Nature study every morning for the rest of this week! 😉

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    GretchenJoanna says:

    wowie….what a gift.

  4. Avatar

    sarah says:

    Out of the mouths of babes. Beautiful.

  5. Avatar

    Anne says:

    So very, very beautiful… and a little child shall lead them.

  6. Avatar

    Penny says:

    What a wonderful moment. What a wonderful world 🙂

  7. Avatar

    Ellie says:

    so sweet xoxox

  8. Avatar

    Elizabeth says:

    My hero this child is.

  9. Avatar

    Christina says:

    Tears here. What an incredible experience with your daughter, and how perceptive she is!

  10. Avatar

    tanita says:

    Oh, YES. Charles. Wallace.
    My goodness.

    I shall take her little bit of wisdom, and listen to my wind chimes, and the fighting ruby-throats, and the mourning doves, and the jays. The music of Life.

  11. Avatar

    lesley austin says:

    So beautiful. Thank you for sharing with all of us, Lissa.

  12. Avatar

    maria says:

    *speechlessly in awe*

    🙂 maria

  13. Avatar

    Kimberlee says:

    I love Rilla.

  14. Avatar

    Sally says:

    What a gift in your busy morning. The patience that can be found in a child… where we least expect to find such wisdom. Hold on tight.
    Thanks for sharing such a special moment. Although how could you not share such splendor?

  15. Avatar

    Karen Edmisten says:

    Just. Perfect.