Everyone has a listening-point somewhere. It does not have to be in the north or close to the wilderness, but some place of quiet where the universe can be contemplated with awe. — Sigurd F. Olson
Listening points play an essential role in our individual spiritual health, Sigurd Olson believed. We cannot fully know ourselves without them. They help us experience the awe and wonder that help us recognize our connections to everything else. In turn, these experiences are the cornerstone to individual fulfillment and to building a just society.
Where is your listening point? Where do you go to experience awe and wonder? If you’re like me, you have more than one listening point. You may have felt awe and wonder in many places. In my case, my mind quickly stirs memories of treasured experiences in Alaska and the Yukon, the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains from Colorado through Alberta, and many more locations across six decades of life. But my mind keeps returning to two: the Quetico-Superior region where Sigurd lived, and a park just a couple of blocks away.
Why these two? They have had the greatest impact on my life. I have been traveling to Ely, Minnesota and staying in the area or canoeing in the wilderness since 1963. It is a home away from home. I also had the great experience of spending one entire summer there by myself in a tent, and another life-changing experience of living and working there for about a year.
Grant Park, on the other hand, is just a short walk away. Two blocks, then an almost-hidden short path through the woods, and I am ready to head down into the rugged ravine of the Seven Bridges Trail, or stay on top and follow the path through the beech-maple woods to the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. I can go down to the wild beach, if I wish. That beach is about a 15-minute walk from home. I often follow the bluff through the woods, however, and then visit a small prairie where the bluebirds nest. After that I stop at a pond, where there is always something interesting. The migrating blue-winged teal and common mergansers were there last week.
Grant Park, even more than the canoe country, is my listening point. I was born and grew up in this neighborhood, so it is part of my earliest memories. I was gone for 13 years from the age of 18 to 31: college and grad school, mostly. Then in 1988 I happened to get hired as a new professor by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My colleagues all lived in the more prestigious neighborhoods north of campus. Not me. I wanted to be able to walk whenever I wished to my park. My listening point. I have lived withing walking distance for almost half a century.
You can expect many posts over time that focus on Grant Park, as it is the place where I most frequently experience awe and wonder. And that, I think, is the key. Sigurd’s listening point was on a lake just a short drive from home. Mine is just a short walk. There are many other places that have given us moments of awe and wonder, including places we’ve returned to a number of times. But the ideal listening point is one close enough to you that you can easily get to it. So easily, in fact, that you don’t need to plan it. You don’t need a whole day or even a few hours. You can just decide to go, and minutes later you are there, ready to experience life. Ready for awe and wonder.
Where is your listening point? How often do you go there? What do you love about it? How has it affected your understanding of who you are, and of the world around you? Please respond either below or at the Singing Wilderness Facebook Page.
Photo: Lake Michigan from my listening point, Grant Park, April 13, 2019
The focus on awe and wonder links this to the teal portion of the singing wilderness spiritual map.