Painting with Sound

Sometimes as I sit in the early morning, I close my eyes and cast my mind outwards, following the chirps of the crickets, the chitterings of the cardinals, the cries of the hawks. Guided only by sound, I explore the natural world around me. The tones, volumes, directions, and repetitive patterns of the sounds paint a picture in my mind just as if I were watching a portrait painter at work. Pulsing cricket chirpings form the broad canvass on which other sounds are layered. The distant circling cry of the hawk draws swirling, ribbony brushstrokes of sound.  The red-bellied woodpecker and the blue jays are bright splashes of paint, dabbed here and there, surprising and attention-grabbing. The loud buzz of a hummingbird approaches and recedes quickly–a bold stroke on the canvass–while the semi-regular wheeze of a scolding squirrel fills in a corner of the tableau with short, choppy strokes of the brush. In a final flourish, the chickadees stipple their calls and chatter across the scene, adding interest and that finishing touch. At that point, I can’t resist; I need to see what’s going on.

Opening my eyes somehow diminishes the power of the sounds at first. Like turning on a bright light in a pitch dark room, the sudden visual brightening momentarily dims the other senses. All the sounds are still there, but now they fight with the visual realm for my attention.Then, after a time, things even out and reach a sort of balance. I think with practice, the quiet and patient observer can take in the sounds, sights, smells, touches, and even tastes of nature without any one sense submitting to or overpowering the others. Each sense will complement and enhance the others, resulting in a powerful and restorative experience. Nature immersion.

Sounds Like Fall

It’s big!

Welcome to a fabulous fall morning! It’s great to feel that crisp, cool air and listen to it softly swoosh through the trees. It makes sitting on the couch with a cat and a blanket extra heavenly. And, bonus… it’s Saturday!  I’m working my way through my first (BIG!) cup of coffee while a sweet downy woodpecker taps softly on the lilac bush just outside the window.  She is working much harder for her breakfast than me.The crows are also energetically calling to each other, no doubt getting the day’s plans in place. In my neighbor’s yard, a cardinal cheeps out an important message to someone. Two chickadees in the front peach tree have a spirited discussion. Since before sunrise, about 6:30 or so these days, the birds have been busy. One of the benefits of fall is sleeping with the windows open, and it’s wonderful to wake to these sounds of nature.

Meanwhile, it’s now 7:30, and someone is taking his first big nap of the day. As this guy has gotten older, he’s been more about getting his daily napping in than worrying about what the birds are up to. Besides, he’s got the whole day ahead of him… what’s the rush?IMG_1882


As the sun rises, the wind picks up a bit. The leaves continue their whooshing and a few crickets add their two-cents-worth to the mix, but now other noises start to invade this restful soundscape. In the subdivision behind our house, a garbage truck makes it’s rounds. Unusual for a Saturday, but this is the weekend after Labor Day. A helicopter flies over; two neighbors out walking stop to chat; cars drive their owners to the store or some other errand. It all adds up to create a background of white noise that too often masks the sounds of nature.

So, it’s important to always be listening. Every now and then, the white noise lessens or even stops. For a second, the world seems completely silent, silent enough to catch your attention, silent enough to make you stop and look around, wondering what’s wrong. Then, the sounds of nature emerge. Once again you can hear the whooshing of the wind through the leaves and the conversations of the birds and crickets. And what else? The rustling of a bush or the cracking of a branch–woodchuck? Squirrel? Chipmunk? Close your eyes and take a few moments to listen. The sounds of fall are not to be missed, and soon… all too soon… the white noise will return.