Soundscapes

 
Shakespeare famously said (in my own words…. I hope I’m not butchering it), life’s a stage, and we’re just playing out our role.” He was a smart guy. I like that analogy. Life’s like one big drama…one big movie. And if you think about it, it’s almost like we go through life accompanied by our own soundtrack.

large oak tree covered with epiphytes

 
Life has a rhythm… a pulse. All sorts of insignificant noises are layered, one on top of the other to create this soundtrack. Your new sneakers squeak across the pavement. The neighbor’s dog is barking at cars again. An alarm goes off the next block over…..just another instrument in the symphony of life.
 
 There is one thing, however, that has been bothering me lately. More and more we seem to be assaulted with a constant wall of man-made noise. I don’t know about you but sometimes my senses just seem fatigued. Maybe this is why escaping from civilization and getting into nature seems to have a purifying, restorative effect on me. Urban life tends to make us forget that the human race is totally dependant on the natural world for survival. We’ve used technology and infrastructure to “sanitize” our surroundings. The ambient buzz of cicadas and air-borne insects is replaced by the constant hum of our air-conditioning unit. If you stop and listen, you can’t hear your heartbeat anymore. It sounds more like a pace-maker.
 

golden-silk spider

 One of the places I go to give my tympanic membranes a rest is an area just north and west of Lake Okeechobee called Fisheating Creek. I’ve been coming here since I was a figment of my parent’s imagination. Fisheating Creek is like the Kern family health spa…. except there’s no electricity. Or running water. Or bathrooms……. but there are lots of critters. Since we choose to go without many of our modern conveniences, we get to take a break from all those subtle mechanical noises that conspire together to drown out the sounds of nature. Here are a few of the sounds that fill the landscape at Fisheating Creek:
 
Fisheating Creek forest ambience
 
Fisheating Creek river ambience 
 
 

huge paper wasp nest

Insects: the air is filled with an ever-present vibration, punctuated here and there by the chirp of a katydid or the zip of a dragonfly speeding past your nose. It’s a constant reminder that this place is pulsing with life.
 
Red-shouldered hawk: his piercing call cuts through the atmosphere, keeping us aware of the drama of survival that plays out everyday. Rodents, snakes, as well as other birds, must keep vigilant watch.
 
Sandhill crane: we hear their hollow, throttling call more often than we spot them. When we do catch a glimpse of the tall, elegant birds they’re usually in pairs or small groups.  Often we see them working their way through a grassy pasture picking around for insects to eat.
 
Pileated woodpecker: Sometimes we’ll catch a lucky glimpse of one gliding through the pine-woods. He’s the largest woodpecker (after the Ivory-billed which is believed to be extinct) in N. America, sporting a tall crest of red feathers. Usually we just hear his laughing call, or the sound of him hammering away like Tito Puente on the timbales.
 
Barred Owl: My favorite sound of the night. Her iconic hoot echoes through the oak trees with a sense of almost otherworldly omniscience. If you practice the call enough, you can get her to hoot back and forth with you.
 
 
When these and the millions of other sounds of the forest play out together, we’re given real music. I come here to get away, but not for the silence. It’s far from quiet here. But it is peaceful. There’s something about the organic, living quality of this soundscape that seems harmonious. It’s not like the clashy, cold dissonance of the city. If you haven’t experienced this first-hand, you should try it sometime.
 

my wife, Queen of the swamp!

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