OES hosts Kadi Franson: How deep listening helps us connect to nature

SUU Outdoors hosted this semester’s last Outdoor Education Seminar on Thursday, April 21. Kadi Franson, an interdisciplinary artist, visited Basecamp to discuss intentional awareness while enjoying the great outdoors. 

I attended her lecture, In Communion With Nature: The Art of Observation, which taught attendees the importance of deep listening, a concept developed by Pauline Oliveros that encourages people to mindfully listen to the world around them. 

“Our need to pay attention is more profound now than ever,” Franson said. 

She stated that she wears many “hats” as an architect and designer, a writer and an educator. 

“The overlap [between these ‘hats’] is where my passion lies,” Franson said. With a BFA from the Chicago Art Institute, she has built her career on a passion for ecological building designs and nature-centered art.

Franson explained that we must juggle our responsibilities to the Earth with evolving technology that constantly demands our attention. With the struggles of everyday life enhanced by the stress of the cCOVID-19 pandemic, our attention lies in many different places while the world is waiting for us.

In the hour-long workshop, attendees were encouraged to practice deep listening by taking a slow walk around campus, focusing on the sounds of the world and how we interpret them. Franson encouraged everyone to think of sound as an “art experience,” and to explore sounds that we found interesting. 

As I walked away from Basecamp, I found that going slow is not in my nature. Focusing on the sounds that I tend to ignore made me realize how beautiful some noises could be. As I walked outside of the Sharwan Smith Student Center Rotunda, I heard the wind and found myself staring at the trees swaying as the breeze whistled through the branches. I walked towards the Gerald R. Sherratt Library where speakers played music to celebrate finals week. The closer I got, the easier it was to hear the reverb in the music, the sounds coming from the pulsing of the speakers. As I walked myself back inside, slower now, I heard people laughing, the hurried sounds of footsteps against the floor and a rustling of papers as someone passed me while searching through a backpack. 

Sound is everywhere — silence is a rare experience. Being aware of the sounds of the world around us helps us better connect with our surroundings. Whether venturing outside on an adventure or enjoying the sounds of birds outside of a window, there is something we all can gain from listening — not just hearing. 

Though this was the last OES of the school year, the program will return in the fall semester with new speakers and interesting lectures. 

SUU Outdoors will continue to host other events over the summer. Weekly slacklining and hikes will be announced over Instagram. To sign up for trips this summer, visit Basecamp located in the student center next to Chick-fil-A.


Article by: Lily Brunson 


Photos courtesy of Kadi Franson and Lily Brunson