Movin' On with Nellie: Ears, we all have them


I’ve been thinking about ears lately. It started when I watched Charlie Rose’s Monday interview with Sally Fields.  Her ears looked like a nautilus shell flattened like an appendage to the head. Ears offer us a lot in terms of communication and elegance. Have you ever noticed that? Sally’s ears had dainty diamond studs showing off the clean, organic lines of her lobule, concha and helix. 

Without ears, we wouldn’t be able to hear our names whispered by our babies or others trying to get our attention. Along with crying, listening is one of the survival skills we all grow up with.

The chirps of birds foraging through the pine needles or grass blades on the spring lawn can be a stirring sound on Monday mornings. The ears roll those single notes into the ear canal and into our heads, or brains. Sometimes, we sip our favorite morning drink or a flavored brew while listening to the bustle of nests outside our windows.

In that auditorium, the sound can turn into a powerful motivator; but then the cacophony might morph into white noise of the day. I’d rather wake to the conversations of birds than to the vibrating angst that an electric clock generates or the dogs chewing out someone too close to their fence. The Zen alarm that grows in volume from one gong can be soothing, but is not as pleasant as the hurried chirping of our fellow feathered finches, in my opinion.

Early spring in the Valley transforms into love songs from Sand Hill Cranes lighting upon our fallowed fields. With our ears tuned and ready, we stream to the corners of the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge to hear their fowl rhetoric. This year seemed sparse by comparison to just a few years back when the flocks stretched further and crooned louder. In 2005 at a “Co-op Road” viewing station, I remember reaching out of my Cavalier and almost touching their grey wings. This year there were so few of the red heads that the phone zoom wasn’t enough to get a sharp picture of them. 

Listening or not, men and women decorate their ears with feathers, shells, metal, plastic and sometimes wood. None of which hasten revelations to the inner chambers. (A bloodhound’s ears are made to pull sounds and scents into its brain for direction to the stealthy prey.) In some cultures around the world, the decorations on our ears attract the opposite sex; in our own amalgamated culture, decorations on our ears can be subtle and smart even while enticing another’s eye to notice. We might listen to the pick-up line or the start of banter in the grocery checkout lane, but then notice the dangling earring before smiling and loading up the car.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear,” says the Bible in various chapters of Mark, Matthew and Revelation. But as a wealthy nation full of spiritual guides we are evidently hard of hearing. The reason isn’t our ears, adorned or naked, but how our brains process information.

Sometimes we hear fake news and buy in. Sometimes we hear substantiated news and think it is bogus. Discerning is a powerful tool to cultivate and use in our social media driven world. What is true is that our democracy depends on how we hear with our ears in these disparaging times.

As ears have always heard, tyrants have come to power throughout earth’s history when people did not listen to what’s happening in the world. Tyrants have come to power when inklings and alerts were ignored. Tyrants run free when constituents choose apathy. So how many of us who have ears will listen with our whole brain?

In reading we must listen to who the narrator is and detect what the narrator might gain from our buy in. In a democracy, the news (newspapers, broadcast media, print journalism) is our eyes and ears that uncover seen and unseen actions leaders may want hidden. We must ask the questions and get answers. What do leaders gain by our kowtowing to their visions and feigning allegiance to their rhythms? In other words, “We must do our homework,” as some post on Facebook.

Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her with ideas for her next column at [email protected]

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