A tiny migrating warbler changed my life. As I sat on my back deck a few springs ago a tiny bird landed on a twig about ten feet in front of me. I could see it singing but couldn’t hear a thing.
Military Training and Hearing Loss
My hearing loss probably started as an Army trainee in the late ‘60s guiding 50 caliber shells into a machine gun. Every time the gun spit a bullet downrange a massive blast of noise and pressure hit my skull. In later years I spent hours running chainsaws, vacuum cleaners, and lawn mowers. All to the detriment of my hearing.
Hearing loss is an insidious stealthy condition. It crept up on me so slowly and gradually that I never noticed it. My wife certainly knew something was going on as I increasingly asked her, and everyone else, to repeat sentences. Conversation in restaurants became challenging and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, became my constant companion. Night and day my ears never stop buzzing.
Call to Action
Fitting hearing aids is a process and building a relationship
Seeing, but not hearing, the warbler spurred me to call Dr. Jennifer Reekers at Heartland Hearing Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. Soon I was sitting opposite her in a hearing test booth that confirmed what I already Low-frequency sounds were easy to distinguish but my ability to detect other sounds dropped as high frequency increased. Dr. Reekers shared good news. Thanks to modern technology she could improve my ability to hear and reduce the pesky tinnitus.
Shortly after receiving my new hearing aids I hiked a six-mile trail to Hanging Rock overlook at Effigy Mounds National Monument. Along the trail, I was serenaded by warblers and Orioles. In a moist trailside valley nature’s most beautiful sound brought me joy. It was the first time I’d heard a wood thrush since my hearing declined.
Everyday Sources of Hearing Loss
Millions of Americans suffer hearing loss, often caused by loud noise exposure. Although most people realize that gunshots and fireworks can cause hearing problems, few recognize that exposure to common everyday lower intensity noise causes gradual hearing loss. Vacuum cleaners, blenders, coffee grinders, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and the dreadfully loud hand dryers in public restrooms can contribute to a permanent hearing loss. Damage is cumulative.
Solutions exist! The best, by far, is to prevent hearing loss by protecting the ears from loud noise. Inexpensive muffs and plugs mute the scream of vacuum cleaners and power tools. I keep a pair by every noisy machine and always put them on before pushing the start button. Rather than allowing a restroom hand dryer I keep a clean handkerchief in my pocket and use it to dry my hands. Parents should be especially careful to protect their children’s hearing by choosing quiet toys over shrill ones and making sure kids wear muffs when exposed to noise.
Ironically enjoying music can contribute to hearing loss. Many concerts are at such a high decibel level that even short exposure can lead to lifelong hearing problems. Fortunately, devices are available from audiologists that reduce the volume of noise entering the ear while retaining sound quality. They enable enjoyable safe listening.
Technology to the Rescue
By the time I recognized my hearing loss, it was too late to prevent it, but the hearing aids restored my ability to distinguish sounds. I will probably always have tinnitus, but technology has diminished its impact. These days I’m careful to muffle loud noise to avoid further damaging my hearing.
Thanks to Dr. Reekers my hearing aids help me enjoy conversation, birds, music, and more of life’s delightful sounds. I encourage everyone to protect their hearing from loud noise and to seek the help of an audiologist to improve their ability to distinguish sounds.
Birding again is a joy with hearing aids, thanks to Heartland Hearing
“It was amazing! Gorgeous! Fireflies danced over our prairie most of the summer, and they weren’t here when it was a mowed lawn,” said Katie Hill with much enthusiasm
She and her husband Tim are restoring an island of ecological health just three miles from downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. First Avenue is one of the busiest urban streets in Iowa, constantly filled with cars, motorcycles, and trucks. A bald eagle flying over the road would look down at an urbanized landscape – except for five acres of verdant beauty just a few feet east of the Avenue. The oasis is nestled between suburban developments, a high-rise condominium, and a senior residence complex.
Katie and Tim bought three and a half acres and a home about 15 years ago. It was convenient to his work at a law office a stone’s throw from their land. “We did the standard expected landscaping of mowing and spraying for about a decade,” she said.
Although the yard was large it lacked plant diversity and wildlife. Then came the change.
“We stopped spraying and I took delight when creeping Charlie and dandelions took hold. Many people don’t like them, but creeping Charlie has a gorgeous flower that bumblebees love, and it smells nice. Dandelions are beautiful, and bees love them,” she said. Then she broadcast prairie seed on a low area that had been lawn. After a couple of years big bluestem, Indian grass, and many native flowers appeared. Encouraged by their first prairie the Hill’s planted new ones in formerly mowed and sprayed lawns. They’ve been helped by David Novak, owner of a small company that helps people restore natural areas.
“We were delighted when lightning bugs appeared over the prairie. They don’t like mowed lawn but love taller plants. We watch them dance on summer evenings. These beautiful insects completely avoid the mowed lawns of our neighbors,” Tim and Katie remarked.
Early in 2018, the Hills bought about an acre and a half of land adjoining their property Years before several houses stood on the property but it had been purchased by a developer who planned to build two condominium towers. He razed the houses and built one condo tower but abandoned plans to build the second.
Restoring the Land
As we walked through the area Katie showed us her new prairie plantings in what had once been a lawn while Tim pointed out where the houses had stood. As the years go by the residents of the existing condominium tower will gaze downward during the day on wildflowers dancing in the breeze and butterflies sipping nectar from prairie blooms. As twilight approaches, they’ll enjoy fireflies blinking their tiny lights.
In addition to creating beauty and feeling the joy of making the earth healthier, the Hills are benefiting the community beyond their property. Prairie grasses absorb stormwater that once sheeted off their land and into storm sewers and eventually Cedar Lake. Their land nurtures wildlife as its beauty increases and diversifies.
“We feel good about what we are doing. We are helping nature restore itself in the heart of the city, but it also does one other thing. When we were mowing and spraying it was costing us about $600 a month to maintain the property. Now that’s dropped to about 90 bucks, so we’re saving money,” the Hills explained.
In the process of restoring their land, Tim and Katie Hill are also getting a fulfilling ecological education.
Win! Win! Win!
“It’s a win, win, win,” smiled Katie. “It’s a win for us saving money. It’s a win for us to have the time to be entertained by the wildlife diversity. And, most importantly, it’s a win for Mother Nature.”
New England Asters grace the prairie.
Butterflies have flocked to the Hill’s property.
One of their many cats relaxes on the patio.
A Monarch perches in the lee of a tree resting before leaving for the south.
Worship outside of a church comes in many forms. For the service, several members shared their ways of being mindful and growing spiritually. These included listening to music, engaging in specific meditation times, and singing. My contribution was this short talk on how walking a labyrinth daily has been an important part of 2018. Since late December 2017, I have walked either the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth or when traveling found a labyrinth to walk, or used a small cloth lap labyrinth and as a last resort, used my palm to mindfully walk a labyrinth.
“Carry On” Lyrics from the American Indie Pop group, FUN.
“If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground
Carry on, carry on.”
The lyrics of this song often scroll through my mind as I walk a labyrinth daily. Walking a labyrinth is my meditation.
The song reminds us that none of us is perfect. We can chew on our faults, making them who we are. Or we can acknowledge the negatives things like wrong doings, surliness, inconsideration, not listening and then we can choose,
Yes, we have a choice, to acknowledge positives in our lives and work towards them. To make them part of who we really are.
We are Holy Spirits Bound in Human Bodies. Frailly Divine you might say.
Walking a labyrinth daily provides me with this time and space. For me to pause…Ground…Center in the moment…and Mindfully walk with a Grateful Heart.
I give thanks: to the day and the season regardless of the weather; the plants and animals; our home; Rich and our families; our bounty.
I ask for blessings on those in need, trauma, who are far away, with whom I have had disagreements and whose actions I disagree with.
I ask Divine Love that is within me to help me remember to open my heart and mind to grace and compassion.
Walking the labyrinth helps me catch and dispel the grumpiness that sometimes overwhelms me.
Speaking scientifically, by choosing to center in gratitude I change the brainwaves by allowing neurotransmitters to reinforce certain pathways. Positive pathways. I allow time for resolution of matters as I form habits of gratefulness and positivity.
Spiritually, this allows time and opens space to choose to walk mindfully; to invite in peacefulness that I work to carry through the day.
As I carry on, I remind myself that peace begins with me with the sound of my feet upon the ground.
From Abraham Maslow: “The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
From Linda Mikell, Veriditas Council member and skilled labyrinth facilitator, “People tell me time and again that the labyrinth has an aspect of awe and wonder about it.”
The Gazette in Cedar Rapids has had several interesting nature stories connected to creating wondrous yards. Living Section features “Birds do it, Bees do it”, “Add a Little Luck to Your Landscape” and Purslane (by Winding Pathways). We loved reading about the birds and bees’ cooling strategies and welcomed the return of clover to yards as natural nitrogen fixers and deep-rooted water retention plants. And, of course, we love to eat purslane. Let us know ways you fix this healthy vegetable.
Also an article on wasps of late summer. They are beneficial, ‘though deserve keeping distance.
Success on the Bena Farm!
Best of all was the picture of the Monarch Chrysalis from friends, Nancy and Gordon Bena found on their farm. Let’s keep encouraging habitat for insects that form the basis of life for many other creatures.
“Take Time. Make Time”
Sunrise comes early in Summer.
After working 40 years of my life, I was fortunate to be able to retire early. Always a multi-tasker while I was a working mom, you can imagine that much of my spare time was, well, not really spare. I vowed early on that my children should not miss out on “mom time” because I was working. That meant that some other things had to give a little. Like housework…that was easy
to cut. The only “extra time” I allowed myself before the family began to stir was a cup of coffee and a scan of the local paper WHILE I blow-dried my hair But getting back to my original point: when I retired, I knew it was going to take a bit to adjust to my new normal of no schedule. I developed two mantras –the first, “Slow Me Down, Lord”, and the second followed “Take time, make time.”
Like time to watch the sunrise.
Growing up on a farm I saw few sunrises mostly because I was already in the barn milking and there wasn’t a lot of extra time in those days. Milking 50 cattle morning and night…usually with only two people milking. You get the picture.
Arkansas Sunset Photo by Connie Sjostrom
But, I saw lots of sunsets — mostly from a tractor. Back then we worked until it was dark, and sometimes later depending on the season. Still no camera handy. And if I did get a shot, I had to wait until the roll was full to get it developed. And usually, a few weeks for it to come back not to mention the trip to town to drop it off and pick it up. It was a real thing.
When we first married my husband and I enjoyed small town living but that involved a 45-minute commute to work and little extra time to catch the sunrise. Even when we moved to the country 27 years ago, I was still up early and getting ready for my day. We had the perfect spot — on top of a hill facing East-southeast. But until I retired I was hit and miss on taking the time to actually catch the sunrise. And then, I didn’t always have a camera at the ready, so very few were ever captured.
Fast forward to my retirement years. I now have hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures of sunrises and I am so glad I can share those with others who may not have the time or the perfect location to view these masterpieces of creation. While Facebook has its drawbacks, being able to share a sunrise photo instantly is definitely a plus.