Embracing the elements: Hearing the seasonal heartbeat of the outdoors

Often we notice the change of seasons by what we feel outside. The cold chill lets us know of the coming of winter. The heat of late spring tells us summer is on the way.

We can see it, too. Leaves turn in the fall, losing their green and leaving behind a variety of fiery colors – red, gold, and orange.

The onset of spring starts with that “new leaf” green that’s lighter in shade, signifying the newness of the foliage breaking through.

But did you ever notice the sounds of the seasons?

I got a reminder of that not too long ago. The sound of the woods during the summer is much different than at any other time of the year.

Keep in mind that noticing these things is ingrained in me. I’ve written about disasters so fierce that they change the sights, sounds – and smells – of the places where they occur. A tornado ripping a 40-year-old home to pieces will unleash scents of wet timber and gasoline, something even years later is hard to forget.

I was out on the trails the other day, doing what I typically do – running too late in the day, when the temps are soaring and anyone with any sense has long since packed it in.

As I started hiking in, the forest was alive. I mean, freaking ALIVE with life. Not that I saw it. I heard it.

Cold-blooded invertebrates flourish in the heat, and they were making their presence known. Loudly. Cicadas were out in force, firing up their shrieking, decibel-pumping symphony of noise.

The forest doesn’t sound that way in the spring. At that time, it’s more about songbirds. Certainly in the fall and winter, it’s the wind rattling through limbs and dead/dying leaves.

I’ve written about the fact that I don’t run with headphones. I like to hear what’s going on around me. It makes me feel more connected with the place I’m in, and in its own way such experiences have their own aesthetic, meditative qualities.

That’s half the reason I run, and why I’ve taken a particular interest in trails. Having the forest erupt in a biological cacophony reminds me of two things.

First, it reminds me where I am. I’m in a wild place where the things that live here are not tame. This is their home, and I’m just visiting. There are no leashes or cages here. No fences. No laws or ordinances telling the denizens of the woods what to do. They live as they have for eons, and it’s important to be reminded that in many ways, this is where we came from.

It also reminds me of where I’m not. The noise I hear is not the hum of fluorescent lights, chirping of telephones or clacking copy machines. The sky above me is not a cleverly disguised drop-in ceiling. The trees and underbrush are not part of some carefully designed and maintained landscaping, and they don’t grow in flower pots. Bugs are not unusual here. Neither are the rest of the wild things crawling and scurrying around. The artificial environment is the place that pays the bills, somewhere I need to be for long stretches. But it’s not like I crave to be there like I do the outdoors.

So I get these reminders from time to time. The subtle applause of leaves in the wind, or the call of migrating birds. Or in the heat of the day, the forceful chorus of the woods.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


6 thoughts on “Embracing the elements: Hearing the seasonal heartbeat of the outdoors

    • If people wear them, that’s one thing. And yeah, as long as they don’t blast them. But I’m like you. I definitely prefer to hear what’s going on around me, whether I’m running trails or running in the city. First, it’s aesthetically more pleasing. Second, it’s safer.

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