By Amanda Cleary Eastep

This is a rare morning of solitude. Sitting in the gray light, I feel the damp air sift through the screen door behind me as the smell of rain lays itself across the skin of my bare neck and right shoulder. 

I’m listening. 

…in between the clicking of my too-long-for-typing-quickly fingernails and the distant swoosh overhead of an early-bird flight to somewhere away from the Chicago suburbs… 

In yesterday’s reading of Love Letters to Writers, Andi Cumbo-Floyd listed ways we can cultivate a spirit of listening. 

For writers, that means (gulp) we SHUT AWAY OUR NEED TO BE HEARD (notice how I screamed that anyway?). We must “put aside our own agenda” (mental list: post a blog, make a helpful point, upload dramatic [free!] stock photo, share via social media…). Just like a good conversationalist, we shouldn’t formulate what we’re going to reply while the other person is still talking. 

Over the past several weeks, I have mistyped/miswrote “here” as “hear.” So I’ve been trying to listen more. But while listening is the practice, actually hearing should be the result. 

We wonder why our relationships are struggling, why God isn’t answering our prayers, why the plot of our story resembles the knots in a second grader’s wet shoestrings. 

I’m listening.

Raindrops teasing the gutters

Southwest flight piercing the clouds on the way to sunny Florida 

The click of the bedroom doorknob and footshuffles of my husband as he makes his way to the kitchen to turn the fire on under the kettle

Tick, tick, woosh. Blue flame tickles metal.

At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. –Annie Dillard

Tugging at our sleeve like a child who needs attention (probably the kid with the knotted shoelaces) is someone or something that needs us to listen…and to hear…

…that begs us to create space for it and ultimately for ourselves too. 

This is why there are lines in between these sentences, spaces inbetweenthesewords a n d l e t t e r s. 

Why the sun sets. Why we sleep. Why, ideally, there is a thumb’s width between the end of your big toe and the tip of your new shoes.

If a spouse is distant, holding hands instead of smartphones might create an entire shared world.

If we are praying and not seeing the answers we expect, perhaps we are folding our arms against an Embrace.

If our writing feels lifeless, perfectionism may be crowding out surprise.


The rest of world is waking up now. I hear the kettle whistle. I hear the rev of a landscaper’s mower. I hear my brain jotting a to-do list with a sharp pencil.

But I don’t want to listen to that. 

I want to go back to the “wholly attentive” space that’s nearer to my heart than my head and hear what that urgent child is trying to tell me.

First published at

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash