The Sounds of Life

The Sounds of Life

by Cathee Poulsen

In the mornings, before the unforgiving September sun begins its daily climb, I slip out to the deck with my coffee and something to read. But before long, I put the book down and listen. Summer is waning and the cicadas are humming in the heat, their wings rubbing together to create the sound we hear until one gives the signal and they simultaneously halt. It always makes me wonder who is chosen to be the bugler.

The highway is at the top of our hill and the soft sound of traffic is soothing to me. Once in a while it’s all silent for a few seconds and then the drumming of semi-trucks hauling their goods picks up again. It’s never been annoying to notice and for the most part, after this many years, I have to pay attention to even hear it.

Maggie lays at my feet and her gentle snore reminds me how many long years — going on seventeen now — she’s been a joy to us. We won’t have much more time with her and her breathing reminds me of passing blessings that come to us, but not forever.

A boat motor’s quiet chugging catches my ear as an early morning fisherman seeks a fresh catch. The daily grating call of our two resident sandhill cranes interrupts the stillness as they fly across the lake. We could view them as irritating noisemakers, but I love to hear them signal a new day. In the evening they repeat the whole scenario as they make their way to the point south of us.

I can’t help but think of one of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes…

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

I don’t think he was specifically writing about sounds as much as he was telling us to pay attention – to those closest to us, to things that happen to us, but surely he was including sound. I find it impossible to notice sounds in this way unless I purposely quiet myself within.

Walking back inside I hear bacon popping in the skillet as Bob makes breakfast. I think how blessed I am to have this man (for almost 55 years now) who also cooks my breakfast. Maggie’s nails make a tap, tapping across the wood floors and the door slams downstairs as Pierce leaves for school. Later as I clean up from breakfast, a creak of the recliner as Bob pushes back to read, cup of java close at hand. These are the sounds of my life.

How well do you listen?

I have not always been able to pay attention like this. It was a practice I cultivated as I realized I was missing out. On special messages from God through my surroundings, on hearing the heart of those I love most, of just learning to be still. “Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul…” Psalm 131:2.

May I encourage you today to spend some time alone just being still. You might try this “Sound Meditation” to help you listen to the sounds of your life.

Find a relatively quiet spot — indoors or out, but outside will add a richness to the sounds — and rest your face, jaw, and tongue. Close your eyes but imagine your ears opening. Listen for a few minutes to all the sounds around you. Notice them and examine the differentiations. Choose one, like a ticking clock or the waves lapping on the shoreline.

Then let that one go and choose another — the wind blowing outside, for example. Open your heart and ask God to speak to you in the stillness of the moment. Then let all the sounds together come back, even those you may find annoying. In doing this, remind yourself that you can remain grounded and settled in Christ, relaxed no matter what your ears may be taking in.

As Buechner’s quote instructs, listen to your life — all its sounds and messages, whether tragic or glad, because all of it is holy and our lives themselves are a grace.



  1. This quieted my soul today and I needed it. Your words and the photos you used are simply beautiful.

  2. The practice of being present to the moment. Ah, such a gift.

  3. How lovely, Cathee. You’ve brought me so much peace. Thank you for this method of becoming grateful.

  4. Thank you Cathee for this reminder to fully experience the present moment with awareness and acceptance.

  5. Love this Cat! God has spoken to us in so many ways. If only we listened more often. Great blog. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate everything that the Lord has blessed us with. Too often, we take them for granted

  7. Lynne Jones Lawler

    This quiet message of inspiration could not have come at a better time.
    Thank you for sharing your insights and talent with all of us.
    We appreciate you!

  8. Ellis F. Naegele

    Cathee….this was precious to me just now. It quieted my soul. The weather here in Minnesota is kind of gray and a bit rainy.
    I hope we can connect this year in person.
    Kisses to your constant companion ….your little furry friend.
    Love you ….Ellis

  9. I do so love you. Thank you

  10. You are so right about just listening to the Lord in His creation that He gave to us as a gift. I know that this is where I can Rest in Him and truly be still enough to hear His voice and feel His peace.

    Thank You for all the inspiration and wisdom you have planted in me through the years!

  11. Good Stuff!!!

  12. Before the bustle of morning commitments and early heat I love taking a few minutes to sit on the porch and listen to the birds. My best time, however, is at night . . . crickets seem to shout as fireflies flit about. The sounds of summer. SO love them.

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