My Superpower is Listening

I think my superpower is listening. I am very quiet, patient, attentive. But sometimes I think I forget this is a superpower. In the past, I have been too quiet, too attentive. I forget to speak. So on occasion I overcorrect. I get anxious about making sure I say what I need to say and I can interrupt or forget to listen. But listening really is my superpower. Because I love to do it.

When I eat lunch with Maria, I love to ask her questions about her brothers or her fears and then sit quietly for long stretches and listen to her paint her life out in front of me. I love to hear her voice get excited and her deep laugh. These lunches are my lifeline. They help me practice. She asks me questions too, things friends have never asked before. And I like that she makes me think. I like that she cares, that she is interested. She keeps her eyes on me, kind and large as I begin to weave my answer. This is why I think listening is my superpower. Because it’s Maria’s too. And I know how rich and held I feel when she listens to my life. And I know that’s how it must be when I listen to others. I always want those around me to know this feeling.

Sometimes I wonder how two such deep listening wallflowers make a friendship work. In many of my other friendships, I always listen and someone else always talks. But it is natural with Maria, like the balance we have is something ancient inside me, something so innate. I miss this when I can’t have it. Maria is busier now than she used to be, and she has someone she loves in her life. I don’t hear from her as often, and I miss being asked how I’m doing every day. This is partially because I can be honest with her. She knows all of me. And she doesn’t just listen to it, she holds it and checks up on it. She asks but she doesn’t pry. It is beautiful to have a friend who makes you recognize your own strengths, superpowers. So I think my superpower is listening, like real, deep listening, so that I remember the words for years and hold them in me like they’re my own.

My superpower is listening so that others feel loved and worthy and important. My superpower is listening so that I am not just me but a collection of all I have heard and seen and been witness to. My superpower is listening to those around me, but it is also listening to myself. I have this knowledge of my own needs and wants. Sometimes I forget to listen really closely or sometimes I listen but disregard, like a superhero who flies but for a moment can’t levitate off the ground. This is something I’m trying to work on, remembering to listen to myself as deeply as I listen to my friends, my family.

Anna Raphael for The Poplar Grove Muse
(Anna was in the first Bloomington cohort of Young Women Writing (YWW), as well as the first Bloomington Young Feminist Leadership Academy (YFLA); she  co-facilitated the 2018 YWW Girls Summer Camp, during which she wrote this fastwrite.)

When The Work Is Done; Remembering Dad

My father died April 13, 2018, 60 years to the day after he gave my mother a promise pin in the spring of ’58. She was 19. He was 24. Long marriage. Made good on the promise. Four kids. They made us strong and flexible. They taught us teamwork. They’d change the furniture around or start a new household project when things got stale. Mom was visionary, Dad, the implementation person, builder, and tinkerer– Supreme Doer.

Mom: I can see that whole wall, floor -to -ceiling with bookshelves.


Mom: Don’t you think we could strip that old corner cupboard, bring it out of the barn and into the house?


Mom: Let’s make a garden like we saw over in England (or Tuscany, or over in New Harmony, Indiana.)

Done. Done. Done again.

He did these things on “off hours”, while serving in capacities as a high school math teacher, a church elder, a business manager, master gardener, friend to so many, he also taught the power of presence, paying attention, and following one’s own creative callings.

Whether he was making bookshelves for our mother, an attic loft for my teenage brother, tables out of reclaimed bowling alley lanes, simple river stone carin sculptures, planting hundreds of trees, or simply following his curiosity in conversation with you, he was all there and all in –in service, busting down whatever walls prevented us from connecting, or alternatively, building rooms to keep us safe.

When I was eight he held my hand as I lay morose and tearful on our nubby couch after school on a grey autumn day. I was a stressed, anxious child. “I know”, he said. “School can be really hard.”

When I was eleven he held my hand as we walked wordless, me shaking, to the gathering area at Vinton County Church Camp, my first sleep-away camp experience (which, for someone who could barely make it through typical sleep-overs three blocks from home, was a big deal).

At twenty-seven, he held my hand as we walked through Cincinnati’s Eden Park to my future husband’s med school graduation. Out of the blue, he said “You know, you are not alone, we’re here for you.”—I suspect both of us felt on the cusp of big life changes. We’d had talks about a few existential matters at that point and while we’d debated the question of whether or not we are each fundamentally alone in this world, he tended toward the conviction that with faith and love, and maybe a god out there, we were less alone then we think we are.

Our father, Charles Richard Lodge, taught us many things. Among them, and for me, personally, was the embodiment of loving service and attention to whatever you happen to love. He developed a deep capacity for imparting this gift to the people around him whether they were friends or strangers. For him, this was hard-earned grace, after rough beginnings and the slow healing of his own wounds.

This past April, I held his hand a lot. So did my 3 other siblings, my husband, and our mother. For three days, tag-teaming, we were a chain of hands through the hard labor of his dying. Believing he could hear us, we reminded him of all he’d given us, all he meant to us, and his world of family and friends. We reminded him that his work could be done but in fact, would carry on through each of us. I have no doubt it will.  He was never alone.

Neither are we.








BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse

Reunion Stories

I am the mother of a beautiful girl who was born in Jiangxi Province, Peoples Republic of China. No doubt most of you are aware of the Chinese one child policy and its implications for Chinese girls.

When we first traveled to China to adopt her, I wrote a lot about the experience. I needed to learn and process what it meant for me and my method of doing that was through writing.

Now, I spend a lot of time reading and learning about adoption and Chinese girls growing up in America. There are a legion of websites and facebook groups for parents and adoptees like us. There are no end to the issues and discussions in which we all take part.

From the moment we started the process, I had always assumed that she (we) would never know her biological family. It is a crime to abandon babies in China, and so most leavers of babies do so quickly and quietly in a hopefully safe space where they can be easily found.

I say a prayer every day because whomever left my girl did exactly that. I know that the biological mother of this child must think about their girl every day, and I do my share of praying to the four winds that they know somehow that she is happy and healthy and well taken care of and most of all loved beyond measure.

But now, on all my FB groups, reunions are beginning to happen. Thanks to modern DNA science, girls are getting tested and groups of adoptive parents and adoptees are making their way to China to encourage Chinese parents to get registered. Matches are being made. People are actually finding the daughters they thought they’d lost forever. Stories abound, and if you guessed they are tear jerkers you are right.

Young girls, swaddled in the blankets they were born in, left with a lucky charm or note, are being raised in the lap of privilege in this country. Given education and love and resources beyond compare, are growing up and find their way back. The tears flow from the mommas and poppas who grab their long lost daughters and beg for forgiveness.

The stories are like crack for me. One after another I envision a day in the future where my lovely girl and I might make the same trip. To close this circle that is wide open and dangling before us. Will she be so lucky as to meet the birth family that gave her up so many years ago? Does she even want to? How old should she be when we start the search? These are some of the questions I ponder daily.

Meeting her birth family is not threatening for me. Whomever set my daughter on the steps of the social welfare institute that May morning committed an act of love, and I would like to repay that love with the chance to hug and kiss this strong smart girl. I like to think that meeting her biological family is quite simply a part of her story, and I for one am anxious to know how it all turns out. Aren’t you?

For now we have registered her DNA on several sites and I continue to learn about programs for Chinese adoptees and issues related to birth parent searching. The right opportunity will present itself before too long.

For now,  here is a video of a reunion story.

Amy Cornell for the PGM

Magic language.


Until about a year ago
I had a secret belief
Which the hyper-rational me hid
Because she could not hold it.
Growing up on the edge of a northern forest
Abutting tall pines and peeling birches
A place of shelter on the needled floor,
The scent of dried sheddings  giving rise to some dream-world travels,
The soft clatter of the needled limbs,
Convinced me that these,
My comforters, my sheltering towers
Were talking to each other.
My linguist self denied that this could be true
And yet, I knew, I knew that this was a community
With mothers and children
Leaning into one another
Encouraging growth
Making room for saplings
Resisting the “other”
The elms and oaks could not thrive there
Though birches seemed to be welcomed on the outskirts
Of this resined community.
But I spurned these childhood musings
No grown-up could possibly believe such things
Especially a godless being like me.
Silly dreams, child.
Silly dreams.
And yet, I could not abandon them.
I wrote poems about the tree communities
And every time I returned to the forest in Maine
The scent teased my rejection
Reminding me of my beloved home
As odors can often do.
Still, my linguist self said
That’s fine, but trees have no language
That’s a fantasy best put aside.
You know better.
And then, and then, like the burning bush
That spoke,
An ecologist, a scientist, a rational being like myself
Wrote his book
And put to rest my embarrassment and shame
For believing my wooded friends
Were talking and singing
To all who could hear.

Bev Hartford

Ref: The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel; How they communicate. Discoveries from a Secret World.  Peter Wohlleben.2015. Greystone Press

Also check this out (thanks to Rebekah for finding it):