I have been thinking a lot about my childhood.

I remember a day when we got up so early that the moon was still shining and our breath came out in billowing plumes of visible vapor. We drove to the Grand Tetons and picked berries in the early morning light. The foliage was painted a beautiful pale blue in the dusky morning haze. The trees were tall, usually pine. I remember wearing at least three jackets to arm myself against the chilly mountain air.

Picking huckleberries is a frigid, but rewarding business. You pick and pick and pick until your white bucket is filled to the brim with the small violet berries and your fingers are stained a vibrant shade of purple. We came home with four buckets full of huckleberries and for the next year we had huckleberry flavored everything for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I think I actually became a huckleberry.

The last time I told that story was to someone who grunted a response and continued watching the television. In fact, I doubt that person even recalls that I was speaking to them. It was more like I was speaking at them. Trying desperately to be heard. Trying desperately to get someone to listen and care about something that seemed to mean something to me, even though it was as mundane and ordinary as picking berries.

It strikes me as odd that society has evolved to tune out story telling and the art of listening to each other, especially listening to the ones closest to you. I myself find it hard not to reach for my phone in the middle of a conversation. I wonder if there is something sad about that – the lost art of caring and communicating. The fact that story telling by word-of-mouth has dwindled and decayed to a point where we end up repeating ourselves multiple times for Karen who responded to three text messages while we were disclosing one of our deepest secrets – or the fact that we are only listening to respond with a bigger and better story that blows the previous one out of the water.

I visited a crystal shop today with my cousin, and we purchased a few items from an older gentlemen who seemed to be a man of few words. He was seated and bent over his wares, avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone. My cousin and I are quite loud and we seemed to overwhelm this poor crystal peddler almost instantly, and he resorted to scratching at a polished rock nearby to show that he was extremely busy and couldn’t chit-chat with us any longer. I felt like I understood him. What is the point of all this meaningless conversation if nobody is actually listening.

I guess the takeaway of all of this is I hope that society begins to evolve in a direction where we use our screens as a way to connect a little more with each other. The art of active listening is something that I truly believe is worthy of being upheld and practiced and I hope that by adding a little more of it to my everyday life it will help change things for the better.


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