The word listen hails from before 950 CE and has its roots in the Middle English lis(t)nen, the Old English hlysnan; the Middle High Germanic lüsenen and the Swedish lyssna (among others to numerous to post here). It is kin to list which also names the French liste and the Old High German leiste among its antecedents. To listen is to experience someone or something with one's aural faculties, but more than that, it is to concentrate hearing, focus and mind together on that someone or something, to cultivate a radiant attention. Held within both words (listen and attention) are notions of observant care, courtesy, consideration and rapt awareness.
A cold damp wind howls through the gutters of the little blue house in the village this morning and goes rushing around corners, whistling a hollow resonant tune that sounds like my battered old Tibetan singing bowl. There is tinkling and crackling up by the eaves as the resident icicles protest the exuberant presence trying so hard to bring them down. When they tumble and shatter, the icicles ring like bells against the snow.
By the back door of the little blue house, I stand shivering with mug in hand and listen to the day unfolding. It seems to me that these ordinary morning sounds are almost symphonic in their expression, in their perfect, seemingly effortless orchestration. The intervals between the notes are as poignant, complete and expressive as the notes themselves, and I find myself thinking of a handful of avant garde compositions by John Cage and Steve Reich in which silence is a key element.
When it snows again later in the day, one will actually be able to hear the snow falling among the trees and coming to rest on the stones in the garden, and even the bare shubbery will seem to be singing. Such moments are precious beyond words, and some of my favorite moments in all of life - an eldritch music indeed, and what the legendary Finn mac Cumaill called "the music of what happens" He believed there was no finer or more beautiful sound on this hallowed earth.