My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Listening to animals (with the ear of your heart)

Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.
~Saint Benedict

I've had this post in the works since last summer when I found a wonderful A.A. Milne quote about listening to animals. I knew I wanted to build a post around it, and got most of it done but never got around to finishing it. (I have several posts like that, I'm afraid!) But this morning as I was doing the dishes, I heard on the radio that A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, was born on this date in 1882. So I thought, what better day to finish and share this post? :-)

I've added a song that I think makes a great accompaniment to the photos...

Whether you choose to listen to it or not, darling Piglet and I do hope you'll still listen to the animals - all animals - with the ear of your heart! :-)

Lots of people talk to animals.
Not that many listen though.
That's the problem.
~Piglet (A.A. Milne)

But some do...

Judy Woods of Pigs Peace listens to Bailey the blind pig
(photo by Harley Soltes)

My friend Robyn listens to the Peaceful Prairie goats

Joan Jett listens to Will on her visit to Farm Sanctuary
(Joan rocks!)

Someone who listens - and really relates - to a chicken pal!

BW listens with intense focus to Willow's secrets
(while a butterfly eavesdrops overhead!)

And I always listen to the deer's requests for treats. :-)

Without a doubt, this is the most adorable photo of someone listening to someone else that I have ever seen...

I am committed to cultivating loving speech
and deep listening
in order to bring joy and happiness to others
and relieve others of their suffering.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

My choice of the song, "When You Say Nothing at All" was completely inspired by Ashley, a lovely young woman I got to know in January 2008 during an online competition to raise money for charity, while we were competing on behalf of Farm Sanctuary. Ashley had interned at their Orland, California sanctuary that summer and shared a video (posted below) that she'd made of her experience. I thought her choice of "When You Say Nothing at All" was perfect, and remembered it as I was finishing this post. So thanks for the inspiration, Ashley!

If you've been playing the song, don't forget to hit the pause button on the playlist at the top of this post before starting the video below. :-)

By the way, Ashley won a VegNews Giveaway contest later that January when she replied to the question, "How do you show your veggie pride?" by submitting this video. And I found a comment her mom left last month on the FARM Blog, sharing a link to this video along with the news that a year after she first posted it, Ashley moved from Minnesota to California to work as a full-time Farm Sanctuary animal caregiver! No surprise, really ~ I remember Ashley as a devoted animal-lover and vegan who was clearly deeply affected by her animal friends and experience there ~ but wonderful news to read just the same! I wish I had a photo of Ashley listening to the animals to include on this post, but you'll get to see several in her beautiful, heartwarming video...


  1. This post brought tears to my eyes, Laurie. It's simply beautiful. <3

    The song is absolutely perfect for it (and I adore that song!). I've long been more of a "listener" than a talker and find it frustrating that so many don't know how to listen, especially when it comes to animals.

    Joan Jett is indeed awesome & I've been coveting her hairstyles for quite some time. If I ever go shorter, I'll most likely get something very much like hers. I adore the pictures of you and BW- they're so sweet! Oh, and the bunny & deer- oh my goodness!! <3

    The video that Ashley made is so sweet, too. We visited the NY Farm Sanctuary one year (on one of our road trips- I should blog about that!) and just loved it. The pig barn was my favorite, but it was all such a great experience. She's very lucky to have a job there!

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Laurie. I absolutely adore it.

  2. Laloofah -- what a sensitive post about our animal friends. I especially liked the quote from
    Thich Nhat Hanh -- his teachings are very compassionate. -- barbara

  3. What a beautiful post! Thank you for this. I love both Joan Jett and Allison Kraus. I am really hoping to visit the NY Farm Sanctuary this year when this so far apocalyptic winter is over.

  4. Molly ~ Thank you so much for your sweet and thoughtful comment, it was lovely to read!

    I think real listening is such an important skill to cultivate, and is terribly undervalued by our society - certainly between we human animals, and especially, as you say, when it comes to listening to non-human animals. They have so much of value to tell and to teach us, if only we'd learn to truly see and listen to them as the fellow beings they are.

    You'd look great in a Joan Jett haircut! It would really suit you, and your hair texture. I've been wearing a shorter version of the one she's sporting in the photo, but am currently growing it longer (if I can stand to get through that everyday-is-a-bad-hairday stage!) My hair is so thick and curly/wavy, though, it would take an arsenal of flatirons to make mine look as good as hers!

    Thank you for your compliment on our photos, you're too sweet. :-) Isn't that photo of the bunny and fawn (I think it might be an elk calf, but am not sure) too cute for words?! Your "oh my goodness!! <3" reaction pretty well sums it up!

    A post about your visit to Farm Sanctuary would be wonderful! (Haven't you visited Peaceful Prairie also?) Ashley is not only lucky to have a job there (the animals under her care are lucky to have her there, as well, I'm sure!), but is lucky to have found her life's passion and niche at such a young age.

    You're welcome, Molly - I'm so gratified that it touched your heart! Thank you again for your lovely comment. (And thank you also to NPR's "The Writer's Almanac" for letting me know it was A.A. Milne's birthday yesterday!) :-)

  5. Barbara ~ Thich Nhat Hanh is so full of courage, compassion and grace, he seems to me to be peace personified, and one of those teachers, one of the bodhisattvas, who is in the world at just a time when the world needs him and his message.

    Georgia ~ Thank you! And, you're welcome! :-) I'm happy you enjoyed it and really hope you'll make it to Farm Sanctuary! I've never been there, but I've been to Peaceful Prairie and think there's nothing like a visit to one of these animal sanctuaries, and spending time with all those brave and eloquent animals, to profoundly remind us of why - and for whom - we're vegan, and what a difference it makes to so many lives (including our own). So here's to a well-deserved springtime road trip to Watkins Glen! :-)

  6. Like Molly, I am very moved. This is a wonderful tribute to our connection with other animals, and the wonderful, sensitive, and truly loving people who lead the way.

    I love the pics you chose...and how there's a butterfly passing through in the pic with Willow and BW. Ashely's video is simply lovely too.

    I'm inspired. Thank you for a truly good start to my day! :)

  7. love all those quotes! the one by "piglet" really got me. animals are so special, i love "listening" to their eyes.

  8. A very sweet post my animal loving friend. Princess P and Tula say "thanks" to you.

  9. Perfect song choice for a perfect post. You knew I loved AK, huh? I never knew Piglet was so smart. But ya see, that comes from not listening ;-).

  10. Rose ~ Thank you so much! Your comment is beautiful, and I'm so glad you were both moved and inspired by this post. Whenever I had a chance to work on it or go looking for photos and quotes to add to it, I was always moved and inspired by the experience as well. (Maybe that's one reason, albeit subconscious, that I was never quite ready to publish it!) :-)

    I loved that the butterfly showed up above BW and Willow in that photo - I'd seen him flying around while we took our hiking break, but had no idea he was in the photo till I downloaded it! (Another one of those "photo insinuators!" LOL - told you there's one in every crowd!) ;-)

    I'm happy to know I helped get your day off to a happy start, and hope it only got better as it went on! xoxo

    DD ~ Piglet is such a brave, gentle and quietly wise little critter, I sometimes think of him as the Yoda of the Hundred Acre Wood. :-) His speech can even be Yoda-like at times... "I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" :-)

    I love your line about "listening" to animals' eyes. You are so right, so much of their expression is in their eyes!

    Sue ~ Thanks, Sue ~ and of course, please give Tula and Princess P much love from their Aunt Tex! :-)

    Spud ~ Thankee, Spudly, I'm glad you thought so too! You're going to LOL at me, but duh ~ I was baffled by your next sentence till I figured out that "AK" meant "Alison Krause" and not "Alaska!" Because no, I didn't know you loved Alaska! ;-) For that matter, I didn't realize you loved Alison Krause, either (does Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh know about this? lol) But it's not because I wasn't listening, it's because you've never mentioned it. Still learning new things about you after all these years! :-)

  11. I love the picture of you feeding the deer. How lucky are you? You're so right about the power that exists when we listen to animals. It is an honor to hear them.

    One of my most profound experiences of 2010 was visiting Farm Sanctuary in Orland. It is a magical place.

  12. Loved your beatiful pictures of listening to animals. My favorite was the one where Willow is telling her secrets to BW. It was a really creative group of photos - they go together perfectly. The funniest picture, of course, being the chicken and the chicken guy.

    I know you do listen to animals because I've seen how they respond to you. It's a very special thing you have. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  13. Such sweet photos and words! Thank you for this lovely post.

  14. LOL, yeah...that butterfly must be the type who always has to be the center of know the type.

  15. Cadry ~ I was delighted to see that you'd visited my blog, and really appreciate your comment. I LOVE your blog, and keep intending to stop by and catch up on more of your fun Deserted Island posts, especially, but online time has been annoyingly evasive lately.

    I'm really lucky to have gotten to share my life with several generations of these beautiful White Tail deer. They're so special, and such a joy to have around! It IS an honor to hear what they and the other animals have to say.

    I'm so glad you got to visit the Orland sanctuary! Did you happen to see Ashley there? :-) I and everyone I know who has visited one of the animal sanctuaries had the same profound, moving and inspiring experience you did. I wish everyone could share in it. Maybe there'd be less need for these sanctuaries then!

    Jo ~ Thank you for your lovely compliments! I wish BW were smiling in that photo, but apparently whatever Willow was telling him was very serious. I don't know, since it was secret! Even the eavesdropping butterfly wouldn't tell me. :-)

    I figured you'd get a kick out of the chicken and his doppelgänger friend! (Sneaking in a little German, there!) :-)

    Your last paragraph is so sweetly touching ~ thank you! xoxo

    Jennifer ~ Thank you, I'm glad you dropped in! And am doubly glad you enjoyed it. :-)

    Rose ~ Yes, I do know the type! Sometimes I can be the type! LOL

    Someday I should go through my photos and see how many I have of critters insinuating themselves into the picture and do a post of them. :-)

  16. Insinuating critters! That is an awesome idea...including human critters!

  17. What a wonderful post - love the images.

  18. Rose ~ "including human critters"... are you insinuating something? ;-)

    Barbara ~ Thank you! And thanks for visiting my blog (I enjoy yours!)

  19. Beautiful post--sorry I've been so slow to comment. And I love all the Winnie the Pooh, since personally I think a day without Pooh is not worth contemplating. I even have a Pooh tattoo so I'm never without his wisdom. One of my very favorite books is the Tao of Pooh as I think Pooh and his friends have so much to teach us! And Piglet is quite correct--lots of people do talk to animals but then don't really listen. Love the photo of BW listening to Willow as well as your listening to the deer. Fantastic post with so much depth and truth. Thanks!

  20. Daphne ~ Thank you so much, Daphne! I was hoping you'd eventually make it to this post, as I thought you might especially enjoy it, and that was before I knew of your love for Pooh! "...A day without Pooh is not worth contemplating" ~ what a great quote! And how fun that you have a Pooh tattoo (that's even fun to say!) :-)

    Funny you should mention The Tao of Pooh, since after I did this post, I requested it from my library and will be picking it up tomorrow! I'm looking forward to it!

  21. Thanks, Laloofah, and I hope you are enjoying The Tao of Pooh--it is an absolute favorite of mine and I've given away a ton of copies as gifts. You can't go wrong with Pooh (and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore and the Hundred Acre Woods and Owl and Rabbit and Kanga and Roo, and Heffalumps, etc., etc.).

  22. Daphne ~ I'm only a couple of chapters into it but am definitely enjoying it. I can already see that it would make a lovely gift, that's sweet of you to give so many copies of it away as presents! I look forward to resuming it again, but my days have gotten hectic again. It's going to be this way for a while, but The Tao of Pooh is a perfect book for such times!

    Heffalumps, I loved Pooh and his honey-stealing Heffslumps bit. My dad took me to see the cartoon movie - can't remember the title of it, but it was about the big storm and the Heffalumps. I still quote the little Pooh-ditty from it "and it's always on a WINDSday that the winds begin to blow!" and of course I still sing the Tigger song! "His head is made out of rubber! His bottom is made out of springs! He's bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy, fun fun fun fun fun! But the most wonderful thing about Tigger is I'm the only one! Oooooh IIIIIIIIIIII'm the only one!" LOL

    I'm such a child. :-)

  23. Daphne ~ I was just reminded, the movie with the Heffalumps was called "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day!" How could I forget?! :-)

  24. That was one fun movie. I'm enjoying re-reading the actual books now on my kindle and I located another Tao of Pooh today so I have that as comfort also. There are days when I feel so like a scared little Piglet and I just love all the characters. There was a bee in my home this morning (wakened from all the roofing I guess), and I thought of Pooh hanging onto a balloon trying to look like a little black raincloud to get honey and having Christopher Robin below with his umbrella announcing, Tut, Tut, it looks like rain!


Will Blog For Comments. :-)

Thanks for taking the time to leave yours!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

free counters