Listening and Learning

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

Some time ago, I wrote about the value in seeking out genuine quiet as a boost to both productivity and mental health. Now I want to suggest tuning out human-made noise and spending time with the sounds of nature. And you may not have to go as far as you think to do that.

During 2021, with the trend of the pandemic uncertain seemingly from week to week, I used a Zoom H2Next audio recorder to record a few of the ambient sounds outside my home. I wrote about the H2Next in a Friday Food for Thought post and I’m a big fan of the recorder. And despite living in a generic suburban neighborhood, I was able to capture decent recordings of a variety of natural sounds. 2021 was a good year for this project because that was the year of the Brood X cicada population. They were quite audible in our neighborhood throughout the summer. (While Brood X was not predicted to emerge in my state of Florida, we definitely heard more cicadas than usual during that time.)

Cicadas recorded 5 August 2021

Crickets don’t project their voices as vigorously as cicadas, but they’re still fun to listen to. My grandfather used to catch crickets for bait when fishing. That may sound like an odd bit of nostalgia, but the fish tasted delicious.

Crickets recorded 4 March 2021

There’s a good reason YouTube and app stores are filled with natural sound recordings. Research has shown that listening to natural sounds has measurable health benefits. Listening to artificial sounds can actually create symptoms indicative of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Rainfall recorded 3 March 2021
April showers bring May flowers, like this wild petunia, a native Florida wildflower

Bird songs are some of my favorite natural sounds. Cardinals and red-tailed hawks are common in our neighborhood, and some of my best thinking is done to the singing of cardinals. It might seem intuitive that music would have an equivalent effect as bird songs, but research indicates that natural sounds offer a greater health benefit.

Birds recorded 18 March 2021

Not all “natural” sounds are really natural, like this rooster that lives in our neighborhood. He’s fun to listen to on morning walks, but I’m glad I don’t live next door.

Rooster recorded 21 March 2021

Many people are able to tune out ambient noises, but I’m not one of them. Paying attention to sound is important to our understanding of the world and our physical and mental health. It’s an essential trait for musicians. Details of ambient noise can add depth to writing, whether fiction or non-fiction. The sounds in a particular location can give us insight into its culture and history. Don’t let all the world’s sounds go in one ear and out the other. Stop, listen, and learn.

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