Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sounds of Nature

My many years of suburban living have caused me to forget the sounds of nature. Evening calls of owls or frogs have been replaced by the hum of air conditioners, bird song erased by the rumble of trains on tracks or cars on pavement. The voice of the wild that I knew as a child as I rambled through wetlands and tall fields of swaying grass on a rural piece of land in Michigan has all but vanished here on the suburban lot that I now reside and has given way to the voice of the modern world. The modern voice loud and brash which covers up the soothing soul- filling sounds of the natural world.

I didn't really notice that the sounds of nature had slipped away from me. I thought that the occasional goose honking overhead or thunder booming in the distance was a true depiction of what nature sounded like. I did not realize that this version of nature, my suburban yard, had been dumbed down, groomed by man with most of the true wildness removed. Each yard in my neighborhood is like the sterilized world you would find at a zoo yet we are the ones in the cages.

The realization that I had forgotten what real nature sounds like was brought home last week when I visited my mother at her new home in rural Kentucky. Sitting on 2 acres of hillside, nestled up against the Daniel Boone National Forest, her place is a paradise for those that love nature. After a seven hour car ride from pavement filled Chicago, I was transported to another world as I wound up the lane through the holler to my mother's house. With the windows rolled up and the air conditioning on, I couldn't hear a bit of sound from outside the car. Imagine my shock when I pulled myself from the car and was greeted with the deafening sound of thousands upon thousands of cicadas and their mating call. The noise was powerful and as it should be. Nature should have a voice as loud and strong as ours. It shouldn't be diminished or quieted by man with all of our building and so called progress.

Slowly, over a few days time, in those Kentucky hills, my ear awakened to the sounds of nature once again. The calls of many different birds pulled at me and the sound of thunder as it reverberated over the hills spoke to me. The splattering of heavy rain upon millions of leaves made me aware of why I love the rainstorms back in Chicago so much. The rain, whether it falls in Kentucky or Chicago is the voice of nature, calling to us and reminding us to open ourselves up to the beauty that it beholds.

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