I stand on the sidewalk listening to the scrape of a crisp golden leaf skating across the driveway in the wind, feeling both delighted and dismayed. I wouldn’t have heard the sound a few days ago. My sixty-year-old memory had forgotten the song of fallen autumn leaves whirling in the wind.
A few weeks ago, the audiologist confirmed I have age-related hearing loss.
“If you were still working, I’d strongly recommend hearing aids,” she said. As I’m not, and the loss is still relatively mild, I faced a choice.
That I’m not hearing as well as I should be was no surprise. I’ve struggled in crowds for a while and found myself asking people to repeat themselves when I’m out and about. I didn’t understand a word at our granddaughter’s summer Shakespeare performance, though I did better at the modern language play.
I reluctantly agreed to try hearing aids for a month. Feeling fragile and dejected, I made an appointment to return in two weeks to get them. I’m getting old, I thought. Wearing out.
Now I hear my knees creak when I go up and down stairs and my brain works overtime sorting out subtle sounds that have gradually disappeared from my awareness. I wonder if a gentle decline in the ability to hear is a gift in a sense, freeing my mind for contemplation and rumination that is the better work in this season of life.
So I watch—and listen—as the leaf pirouettes on the cement, delighted at the sound of childhood returning to me and realizing the sound happens whether I perceive it or not. I’m reminded that the Divine presence in which I live surrounds me regardless of whether I’m aware of it in any given moment. Perception isn’t always reality.
And I wonder if embracing the quieter world to which I’ve become accustomed is okay. Perhaps there will come a time when my hearing loss is severe enough to warrant aid, but is that time now? Is it really necessary to make the cacophony of every day louder than it already is?
The jury’s still out.
For now I’m grateful for the gift of hearing the leaf dance because it reminded me of an unseen Presence and whispers that no hearing aid can tune in to.