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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Relaxing Sights and Sounds of Nature

When Bow asks to go out in the early morning, sometimes it is not to exercise, or display or listen to the sound of his own voice. It is not to swing on his swing, or lie on his bench, or to tease the dogs. Sometimes he just sits and listens to the sounds of nature.

It may not seem as if he is doing anything important, but not doing anything important may be just exactly the point. And doing that in nature, as opposed to in an urban environment, has been found to be helpful to ward off anxiety and depression. 

How does that work, exactly? I don't think it is the sound of silence. On the contrary,  the soft, repetitive sounds of bird calls and insect noises have been programmed into us to let us know when all is well. The ambient noise of a forest or savanna is different when disaster is about to strike, and a preternatural silence ensues. So long as everything is business as usual, we hear the soothing sounds of all the other animals going about their daily lives. This sound of ordinary busyness is very soothing.

 But in a big city we hear alarming noises all the time. Cars honking, alarms going off, sirens and other loud engine noises that sound like explosions. Some of these sounds are actually designed to be alarming and to alert us to emergencies, but when you have so many people together in such a small space, there are constant emergencies, until life begins to feel like one great big emergency. There is no time to relax and listen to the crickets chirping.

Many of my interns have told me that one of the first things they noticed on my property was how utterly quiet it was. But it's not really quiet. It's just not loud. There are noises all the time, but they are peaceful noises. Like the kind the cicada makes.

I saw this amazing creature in my front yard last night. I did not know what it was, but I was impressed by the extreme gravity and purposefulness of the insect as it made its way from the sidewalk to my lawn.

I posted pictures on Facebook and was told it was a cicada shell. People often find the empty shells attached to trees. But this shell was still very much occupied.

Cicada season is about to begin and with it all those natural, repetitive sounds.

 I would love for Bow to have full access to the wild land that is just outside the outer pen. But even under our current, less than perfect arrangement, he does get to enjoy nature in a way that very few modern human beings can do.

It's not quite paradise yet, perhaps, but it is nice.


  1. Funny how we can learn more about the benefits of a natural world from an animal, isn't it?
    I travel to big cities for work sometimes, but by the 4th or 5th day, I'm so ready to come home and just can't deal with the constant unnatural noises, hustle & bustle.
    I love being in the country. I think we benefit from the energy in plant and animal life - whether it's a real energy they send out or one that our body generates in response to sun & fresh air matters still feels good!

    1. Hi, Kathy, I love it out here, too, and have found that I am much more cheerful, calm and resilient in this environment than I was when I lived in more urban places.

  2. When I first moved from the mountains to go to college I had to get used to the city noises. Ambulances and sirens were quite alarming, quite literally. Then I moved out to the desert for about a year, and I had to get used to the sounds of the city again. It was quite jarring to hear all the ambulances and fire trucks, and I think we have more than most because several hospitals are nearby. People from the mountains always comment on this, and I told them it takes awhile getting used to it. We are more of a suburban area, so our sounds are not even as extreme as a full fledged city. Conversely, I knew people who moved up to the mountains, and claimed it was too quiet. It was never quiet to me, I always loved the sounds of the birds.

    1. Hi, Julia. I can relate to that. And it definitely isn't quiet out here in the country -- just not noisily loud. But there are plenty of sounds to listen to: birds, frogs, crickets...