Listening in NatureHow to sharpen your ability to observe sound
Wherever you are right now, close your eyes for a few seconds and listen. Really listen. What do you hear? The hum of a computer, a car driving past? Listen a little closer. Stop thinking about the sounds you hear, and just listen. Hear your own breath? Good.
Now, open your eyes and listen. What do you hear? Did you hear more with your eyes open or closed?
We generally hear better with eyes closed because that allows us to filter out most of the stimulus around us and focus on the soundscape. Try the following exercises in an area away from busy roads. Over time these drills will help you develop your listening skills. This in turn will enhance your enjoyment of nature and life in general.
Count the sounds around you. How many different sounds can you differentiate? Are they man-made or natural sounds? Try to ignore the man-made sounds and focus on the underlying soundscape of nature. Close your eyes and count again.
Defensive Listening. Listen from the perspective of an animal being stalked by a wolf or mountain lion. Do the sounds you hear take on different significance? Are far off sounds more important or close up sounds? Soft sounds or sharp sounds?
Keep a Sound Journal. Spend several moments each day listening with your eyes closed. Silently repeat the sounds you hear to yourself. If you are alone or do not mind being stared at by others around, mimic the sounds. After you have finished listening, write about the sounds you have heard and how they made you feel in a journal. Pretend you are writing to a deaf friend to describe the sounds to them. Review the journal sometimes and see whether you are becoming more perceptive of the details of sounds, or more subtle noises that you did not notice before. Can you paint a verbal picture of the soundscape that surrounds you every day?
In a short time, you will have a deeper understanding of nature, a more finely tuned ear, and another means of enjoying your hikes.