June 2–The Listening Place

Take a moment a look at the picture here on the header of this page.  This monument set on the coast against beautiful mountains is located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.  It is called The Listening Place.  The Listening Place is a sculpture of the artist Valerie Pragnell who worked with the local community to design what they call “end road projects.”  These end road projects are an attempt to bring visitors to places that they might not think to go. The Listening Place is designed to invite visitors to bring together two rather different kinds of experiences:  poetry and farming.

Scotland has a history deeply attached to the land that produces both a long lineage of poets called “bards” as well as a way of living built on farming and agriculture.  Both the bards (a subset of ancient Druids) and farmers do their work and bring forth their creativity out of listening to the land.  The bards tell the stories of the land and it’s people. Their stories not only rehearse glories and honor, but give shape to how the people of that land choose to live honorably with one another.  The farmers are the midwives of the land. It’s not just that they raise food for the population to eat.  They know the land and how it brings forth life, healing, help and nourishment.  As deep listeners, both the Scottish bards and farmers serve the Earth and help to shape her people into sacred community.

Think about where we live.  If we were to collaborate on a Listening Place of our own, where would we put it?  Why would we put it there?  What would this monument, our Listening Place, look like?  Would there be inscriptions?  Whose voices would be found there?  What would listeners at our listening place hear coming from this land that we now tend?  Who are the sacred keepers of memory in our listening place?  How are they still shaping us into a people?

Bob Patrick


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