This FEELed Note is the first in a series written by Natalie Rice, the FEELed Lab Researcher in/of/on Place this year.
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Listen / Silent
Thank you to the FEELed lab for welcoming my brief notes. And thank you to the syilx people who have cared for this land since time immemorial. As a guest on this land, I am here with much appreciation, respect, and willingness to learn.
Woodhaven Retreat was a place to land for two weeks as I transitioned back to living in the Okanagan and begun my work as Researcher in / of / on Place for the FEELed Lab. The first frost came and then the snow, and I too slowed.
As if picked up again by some familiar rhythm, I began my twice daily walking practice around Woodhaven as I did when I lived in residency there during the last year of my MFA. I walked. I listened. I noticed. I found edges: edge of pond, of creek, of orange jelly lichen, of night against traffic on Gordon Drive, of night against coyote, of looking up at ponderosa red against blue, of yellow against purple leaf tip, of one season rubbed up against the next.
I wondered what it meant to be a good listener. To listen with the whole body. To share in listening with others. To listen to human and non-human speech. To listen without judging one thing as more important as another, but to listen to everything equally.
For instance, this snow-laden bough flexing its muscle.
Which is also the sound of wind.
Which is also the smooth and weighty creek.
Which is also the sky opening, which is snow falling through, which is also something I cannot name.
Why does this polypore look like an ear?
“Over time I learned to appreciate that the eye takes a person into the world, but the ear brings the world into the human being” (48) writes Vicki Kelly in “To See, To Show, To Shape, To Know: The Path of an Indigenous Artist.” As someone with a settler inheritance, I wonder what are the ethics of sound and land? What kind of sound based creative research could happen at Woodhaven?
Listen is an anagram of silent.
But I don’t mean to say that I think the earth is silent. It is very loud. I mean to say that when attention is drawn outwards toward the other shapes of sentience there is an invitation to become engaged with other ways and shapes of life.
Everything has a language.
For instance, this may be a loose translation of the poem: ponderosa-talking-first-snow.