What your eyes can’t see your ears may hear

Friends visiting from Nevada in mid-April were delighted to hear a tree frog chorus for the first time – a Southern harbinger of spring – as we drove along country roads in the early evening.

I’ve never seen a tree frog in the 13 years I’ve lived in North Carolina but I can pick out the distinctive high-pitched sound from a quarter mile away. 

Sound, not seeing, is the fastest and most direct sensory connection we can make with Nature. Much of Nature is hidden, or distant, but our ears can reveal the non-human world around us. 

The return of birdsong heralds the start of spring for many of us. A month ago I heard only the squawk of crows and abrupt calls of hawks on a walk. Yesterday I heard a call I didn’t recognize.

We interpret Nature sounds differently

The sounds of nature can:

  • Be an announcement, such as spring birdsong or the low thunder of an approaching storm
  • Strike fear, such as a crack of lightning, whipping wind or pounding rain
  • Be a lullaby, such as gentle ocean waves or a burbling creek

Big impressive Nature sounds may be the only thread that connects some people with Nature.

Rowdy thunderstorms were my dad’s only connection. He’d pull me outside to stand on the edge of the porch under the awning of our Detroit bungalow and wave his arm: “Ain’t Mother Nature grand!” I thank him to this day for my love of thunderstorms.

We live in a sphere of sound and much of it we don’t hear

There are the obvious nature sounds – that scolding bluejay – and the subtle sounds, the kind you have to actively listen and reach out for, like the solitary bee visiting blooming flowers.

Rather than passively wait for sounds to come to us, we can train ourselves to listen more deeply and farther – stretching our hearing sense out in all directions around us, expanding that sphere of sound beyond the layer we typically hear. 

Play with this idea:

  • What can you hear beyond the noisy crickets?
  • Can you tell the difference between a squirrel scampering on the forest floor and a deer trotting through the leaves?
  • Can you pick up the faint rustle of the wind stirring the treetops?
  • Do you know the buzz of the harmless “good news bee?” 

I’ve been awakened by the chortle of a flock of wild turkeys and the yell of a bobcat outside my bedroom door – sounds I couldn’t miss. Had they passed by silently I would have missed priceless connections with Nature. 

3 Resources for You

Such fun resources!

The Art of Listening to the Sounds of Nature

Reference Library of Common Nature Sounds

Singing Insects of North America

2 Questions for You

Reflections, questions and ideas to consider to break the digital spell.

1st Q: What are your favorite Nature sounds? 

2nd Q: What feelings do those sounds evoke?

Hit reply and let me know what you discovered this week. I’ll use some of your feedback in next week’s newsletter (first name only.)

1 Action for You

One small step to start the change.

Reach beyond your normal hearing sphere when you’re outside this week and search for sounds of Nature. What did you discover?

Hit reply, let me know how it goes and I’ll include feedback in next week’s newsletter.

Nature View

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story. ~ Linda Hogan