Learn to Listen

The eye doctor believes your central vision will be gone within five years. His recommendation: get your hearing checked. You must learn to listen. 

One: Listening Lists

Run 3-5 miles, focusing your attention on hearing instead of seeing. Make a list of all the sounds you hear.

Step One || Run by the river

Head to the gorge for an easy run. Do not bring your headphones.

Step Two || Listen

Pay attention to all of the sounds around you.

Step Three || Make a list

After your run, spend 5 minutes making a list of every sound you remember hearing. You can write this in your notebook, type it up on your computer, or speak it into your smart phone. In your list, you might include what the sound is, where it came from, how it sounds, and what it sounds like.

Step Four || Post your list on your running log

Try to do listening runs several times a month. These lists are helpful for developing and practicing the skill of listening. They might also provide inspiration and material for your poems and creative non-fiction.


Two: Spend some time with a single sound

Find an interesting or annoying sound on one of your runs and spend several weeks or months (or years) listening for it, analyzing it, recording it, writing poetry about it.

Step One || Find a sound

While out for a run by the gorge, pay attention to the sounds around you. Find one that fascinates or irritates or conjures up a childhood memory. 

Step Two || Listen for it

On future runs, listen for your chosen sound. Take notes about it when you hear it: How does it sound? Does it always sound the same? What does it sound like?

Step Three || Study it

Research the sound: what it is, why it happens, how do others (scientists, poets, runners) describe/explain it.

Step Four || Record it

Using your smart phone, record the sound several times

Step Five || Be curious about it

Reflect on why you noticed this sound–why it and not the countless other sounds that were happening during your walk or run?

Step Six || Experiment with it

Develop ways to describe how it sounds through scientific descriptions, metaphors, similes, poems. Try playing around with several different forms.

Keep listening and paying attention to your sound until you are satisfied with your attempts at capturing it, or until you can’t hear it anymore, or until you find another sound to study.

My Sound: Crunching Snow, Winter 2019

Entries tagged with crunching snow

Dec 13, 2017 On my walk home, after my run, heard the snow lightly crunching under my feet. Love that sound. I want to figure out how to describe it and how to track the different versions of the snow–wet snow, soft powder, under the wheels of cars, mid-run, while walking…

Feb 20, 2018 Recorded the sound of my crunching feet on the sidewalk, after I finished my run. 2 distinct sounds. One, a steady grinding, like gears with small teeth turning rhythmically, constantly, The Other, one quick thrust, like a small shovel being thrust into sand or small pebbles. I think that the sounds trade off between my moving feet. But how? I need to go out and walk in the snow some more to figure it out!

March 2, 2018 I recorded myself walking home at the end of the run. A very different crunching of my feet, coming from the grit–the salt or sand or whatever they use to treat the road and the path to make them less slippery–was rubbing on the bare, slightly wet ground. Occasionally I walked over some crusty snow.

Snow, 6 Variations in Form

Another sound: Water coming out of the sewer pipes near 42nd street