Category Archives: Learning

Listening II

By Marilyn Hay

How much do we miss in non-verbal communication just in passing? Do we respond to what other  people are telling us about themselves unconsciously, simply responding to their words? Or do we check what they’re saying against the non-verbal cues they are unconsciously projecting? I call these unconscious messages ‘heartsongs’.

I
wonder if we so often don’t pay attention to, or  address, heartsongs
because we feel we’d somehow be intruding in another’s privacy, or
that ‘it’s none of our business.’ Or perhaps we think we’re too busy to
get into something that doesn’t really pertain directly to us. But … 
we are all part of this great community of life, not separate and
apart,  isolated from one another, unless we choose to be. There is

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Riverboats and Bone Yards IV

By Stu Whitley
Bio

This is fourth in a five-part series.

The end of anything must be at least as interesting as the beginning of it, even if we think it’s not a particularly happy ending. As a novelist, the end of a story I’m writing doesn’t always present itself to me initially, and even if I think I’m working toward a particular conclusion, the climax consistently turns out to be quite different than that which I have conceived somewhere along the way. Oddly, I’m as interested in the outcome as I hope a reader might be.

The point is not that every story ends: it is that every story has a surprise ending that has everything to do with the way a life has been lived.

As
I contemplate the decline of those once-grand and now-ancient
paddlewheel steamers on the Yukon River, it occurs to me that, in not
many more years, they will be gone almost completely, leaving only a
few rusted pieces of machinery to mark their passing. I wish there was

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Riverboats and Bone Yards III

By Stu Whitley
Bio

This is third in a five-part series.

It is inevitable that the pressures of the past that are felt by the present have to be contained in some sort of manageable context. Life must be worth living.

Gazing upward to the crumbling decks of
those forlorn leviathans from my canoe on the Yukon River, I wondered
about the men who worked those paddlewheel steamers. Back-breaking work
it must have been to feed those enormous furnaces. Even the ship’s
wheel needed to be six feet across to achieve the mechanical advantage
necessary to turn the fat twin rudders under the paddlewheel. It must
have required Herculean

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Listening I

By Marilyn Hay

How many people truly listen well? How much more common is it to ‘hear’ what we expect to hear, or to jump in to put our own views forward rather than concentrate on what the other person is saying? Sometimes we make assumptions about what the speaker is saying, about their intentions. We color everything with our worldview, with what matters to us. If we don’t trust the boss, we won’t believe what they’re saying or we’ll think they have some hidden agenda. If we feel vulnerable, we may well perceive threats that are implied, not real. If we have something to sell, we may listen for an opening to put our ideas or goods on the table. How often do we bemoan or hear others wail, “Nobody listens to me!”

Listening takes work and effort. It takes
consciously setting aside ingrained expectations or beliefs. It
requires we take a real interest in the other person, and that we
engage in really wanting to understand what they are saying.

The
experience of being actively listened to is so rare that encountering a
person who listens with such focused intensity can be disconcerting. It
is an uncommon experience. When you feel you are actively being
listened to, that

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Riverboats and Bone Yards II

By Stu Whitley
Bio

This is second in a five-part series.

Those paddlewheel steamers on the Yukon keenly awakened my sensibility
that all things—regardless of how grand or wonderfully complex at the
time—have their time. If we are lucky, they, like us, will live on in a
sweet memory, rife with nostalgic editing that carves away the worst.

Like
a distant love affair that once seemed to have held the very purpose of
life in its hands, it is possible to be reminded of happier moments

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this ancient world

the pulverizing, unrelenting surf far below raven’s wings
is a place where the earth, sky and sea converge
each striving for supremacy, now as at the beginning of the world
the ocean is implacable, runnelled by wind and current, its
waves roiled by streaming breakers falling upon themselves
in trembling echoes of the otherwise silent voice of Creator
the air’s rent with spindrift, ragged clouds frown
on the gloomy face of tatsaogitl, the west wind

at the foam-flecked edge of this creeping pandemonium

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Riverboats and Bone Yards I

By Stu Whitley
Bio

This is the first post in a five-part series.

As a young boy growing up in England, I was consumed with tales of the ‘Dark Continent’. The memoirs and descriptions of Burton, Speke, Livingston and Stanley enthralled me, especially their references to the fabled graveyard of elephants, where the fading behemoths of the Serengeti went to die. Trying to conceive of a place like this was such an effort that it faltered on the steps of my young imagination. The African elephant can live as long as 70 years or more: the idea that this intelligent beast should know its time nears and be drawn to a resting place with its kin seemed fantastic.

These thoughts eventually released their hold on me
till nearly half a century later. I was on a canoe trip down a stretch
of the Yukon River known as the ‘Forty-Mile’, where the broad Teslin
River has its confluence. Suddenly, on the riverbank, there loomed the
enormous remains of several paddlewheel steamers. It was still easily
possible to imagine these vast engines of commerce, now in various

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Learning from Older People

I am thinking about all the things older people told me over the
years—don’t worry, relax, smell the roses, live life in the moment,
learn from your mistakes, and, above all, love other people and
yourself. Much of my life hasn’t been spent practicing these gems from
my predecessors. It’s been about struggling to do it right, doing it my
way, resisting anything I didn’t like, and (in one way or another)
controlling myself and other people.

Love,
when it appeared, was like a fleeting

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