Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Last week I took my storytelling class for a nature walk. We talked about the plants and trees and how people have used the different ones for food, medicine, basket and furniture-making, etc. Later that day as we discussed using all five senses in telling a story, it occurred to me that we did not listen as we walked.

Anyone who has been in the woods or the countryside knows there is much to hear, especially early in the day. This morning as we drank our tea and coffee on the porch we listened, trying to identify everything we heard. It was early, just before 7 am. Here's some of what we heard within five minutes of just paying attention:
  • crows calling on the ridge
  • mourning doves (Larry calls them rain crows but they weren't calling for rain this morning unfortunately)
  • an owl somewhere in the distant woods (what kind? Not screech; maybe a barn owl)
  • a hawk, probably the young redtail that lives on our land
  • dogs barking over at the neighbors'
  • bees--the bergamot and pineapple sage by the porch are popular right now
  • hummingbirds at the feeder and also at the pineapple sage
  • a rustle in the dry leaves of the woods--chipmunk? towhee?
  • Charlie lapping her saucer of milk
  • the squeak of our rockers
  • a tree frog, we think it was, calling
  • a very high-pitched sound of insects singing but I do not know what they were. Not cicadas--maybe crickets or grasshoppers? I've heard this sound for years but never thought about what made it.
Stop and listen. What do you hear?

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Angela said...

I'm sure they had a great time on the nature walk with you! They probably learned a lot that they didn't know too. I love listening to the different sounds at my house. I think that because of the location of our house and the way sound carries we don't even hear our neighbor's cows or chickens but we can hear a train whistle that is miles away on a good clear day like it is closer than it is.

Granny Sue said...

We did enjoy it, Angela. One of them is taking an herbal class so she was very interested--and interesting since she knew a good bit about the plants and the lore.

We often hear the neighbor's cows, and sometimes a rooster that must live a long ways away because we're the only ones with chickens as far as I know on this ridge. But if it's going to rain, we can hear the interstate which is a good 20-30 minutes away, and even the trains and the tugboat whistles along the Ohio River. And in summer on Saturday nights, if rain is coming? The drag races in Fairplain, about 20 miles away!

Amy said...

I think all of us could probably use some more listening time in our lives . . . . Nice Post.

Chicken Wrangler said...

Living in the country, we hear different things all of the time. Crickets are common, but sometimes a mother fox barking to her young, or owls in the trees...I do miss the singing of the spring peepers - the road commissioner put in a tube to drain our wetlands (he claimed there USED to be one there but it got broken down and needed to be replaced) and I tried to complain to the DNR, but - they just let the commissioner do as he pleased - it created a SHOVEL READY project in this depressing economy. I miss my frogs. BOO.

Rowan said...

I really wish I'd been in your storytelling class! One of the reasons I prefer to walk alone in the country is because you hear and see so much more, if you are talking to people then you miss such a lot of things.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

When I used to lead walks in the English countryside I often used to stop my group and ask them to just listen quietly. From the conversations I overheard afterwards and the comments that were addressed to me it appeared to often be the highlight of day, particularly if we were in woodland in spring or summer.
Incidentally I just heard the train passing so it's going to rain.

Granny Sue said...

Boo to the commissioner, Chicken Wrangler! Natural wild places are a gift, not to be disposed of lightly.

Granny Sue said...

Rowan, I had to remind my students a few times of the value of silence. Especially in historic or wild places, being quiet and just being allows the senses to fully absorb the place and its past.

Granny Sue said...

That's so funny, John--you can hear a train before rain too. Some things stay the same, even oceans apart.

Silence is undervalued in our society. I dislike the talk shows where the people talk over top of each other, so eager to be heard and get the attention on themselves. Much better for listeners for each one to speak and allow a small pause before the next one speaks so we can truly hear the speaker's words. In the outdoors, there is so much to hear--the falling leaves, the sound of water running underground after a good rain, the rustle of birds in the trees...there is no serenity like that which comes from listening and silence. The cloistered monks knew something we've forgotten.

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