Thursday, April 22, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
I love being in nature for there are always astonishing discoveries to experience, times where nature's pure sapience fills one's body, recharging and renewing, illuminating new insights, stimulating brain cell growth, again and again revealing how amazing our planet truly is.
And what better to explore our planet than with Judy, the quintessential human incarnation of Na'vi princess Neytiri. I feel like a clod, tromping through the swamps, marshes and muck looking for the adventures Judy, with her worldmind, sees all around us both. I treasure her insights as Avatar's Jake learned to value Neytiri's appreciation for all things Eywa.
OK, if you haven't seen James Cameron's Avatar you must. I'd rank it as one of my top five movies ever. If it wasn't so late tonight I'd watch it again.
Back to Mashes Sands. Talking in the vehicle coming back from a morning of marsh and seashore exploration there, Judy with her heavy Canon and lenses and me with a backpack of recorders, microphones and waterproof bags, I commented about the entertaining vocal crow high up in the pine tree.
Crows are members of the Corvidae family, a group of birds sometimes referred to as the feathered apes due to their oft-studied high levels of intelligence. In fact crows have been supposed to possess brain capabilities comparable to a seven or eight year old human.
The morning's crow subject of our present conversation had been perched high in a seashore pine, mimicking blackbird calls from her lofty perch. Below the pine lay the restless open Gulf of Mexico on one side and a calm black-needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) lined tidal pond on the other side of the dune upon which the sap oozing tree grew.
Judy and I've learned to be quiet when we adventure wild and so the crow didn't pay much attention to us, at first. I marveled at just how much the Corvid's calling sounded so similar to the numerous red-winged blackbirds nesting and foraging in the shoreline rush. And the coolest part of it all, crow was obviously enjoying her mastery of red-winged blackbird mimicry. She puffed out her feathers, bobbed her head, back and forth, up and down, back and forth, up and down.
Pulling my internet device from my pocket I did a quick search to learn that some crows have been documented to be possess a mimicry repertoire of over forty different bird species calls. Mind expansion is one of the reasons why I love Florida's amazing native ecosystems. Not only do I learn, but I am healed by the salty taste of Gulf winds, wading bird calls, warm sunshine and the gentle lapping of waves up onto the sandy dunes.
Judy sat down on a weathered driftwood log with her camera, enjoying the beauty of the water's vast expanse lying before us. I moved near a small group of seagulls hoping to record their calls. However they were tongue-tied this morning and so I retreated to the needlerush lined tidal pond under crow's pine. The nesting red-winged blackbirds were calling en masse to their foraging mates, creating a splendid bird chorus.
Backpack off, I retrieved a small handheld Sony recorder, a mini-tripod to keep the recorder out of salty sand and what I call my 'dead rat', a faux-fur wind cover for the two speakers atop the small recorder. Assembling the three and pressing record then lock, I set the device in the sand near the pine tree.
Rather abruptly the crow twisted her head, staring at me and then staring at the rather diminutive, strange, shiny and hairy looking assemblage under her tree, changing her call without missing a beat from red-winged blackbird mimicry to a curiosity indicative rattle and bark typical crow utterance. The Corvid's rattle always catches my attention as it is a rather unique bird speak.
The crow wasn't scared. The crow was curious. Judy and I've learned to be still in the wilds, to be one with nature in mind and presence. Mostly wildlife and plants alike welcome us both, as crow did this morning. No need for the crow to feel threatened or fly, rather crow wanted to attract our attention, rattle and rattle and then chat, chat, chat. She had so much to say to us, her captive audience in the salt marsh.
A smile crept across my lips and I set down in the dune sand under crow's pine, positioning the recorder up towards the vocal bird. The crow called, rattled and spoke, allowing me the chance to capture a good bit of her voice. Rattling to keep my attention and as a display of her curiosity over Judy and I and the hairy recorder below her, then barking and chortling she was intent on communicating to us that the pine tree was hers and her's alone. She wanted us to stay put, pay attention and listen to her tell of how the rush belonged to red-winged blackbirds but the stately pine really was hers. And so she rattled and called, over and over.
Half hour later the sand gnats rude insistence began to bore me so I turned the Sony off and gathered my audio stuff up. Judy had moved around the tidal pond with her camera and I met up with her, and both of us a bit hungry, we returned down along the beach trail back to the beachfront port-a-potties and our SUV.
Now back to the return trip vehicle conversation I mentioned above; we discussed the crow, the beauty of nature and our deep feeling of healing and fulfillment from having spent the morning in the marsh. 'Nature always shares the unexpected', I said.
Judy turned to me and shared, 'You know we really do have our own fascinating Avatar planet right here, all around us. People could experience all the exotic wonders of our own Pandoran ecology right here on Earth, if we'd just open our eyes to see and ears to hear. If we'd just exist in the present reality.' Her perspective made me think of how the Na'vi would plug their braid into the neuronal connectors of Pandora's fauna and flora, creating a special symbiotic world mind junction between lifeforms. Our own planet has so much understanding and healing to offer, if we would just be willing to connect in real time to what is real, around us.
What an amazing perspective! The worldmind is ours if we just go out, look, smell, listen and experience nature.
Communion and conversation with the crow and Judy and Mother Nature. Nature and and a partner willing to adventure no matter the wilds; there is so much to learn and experience and there is nothing better in life.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
'Florida Burning Bush', Rhododendron austrinum. Mixed media 56" x 42" original. NFT available.
|Florida Flame Azalea, Rhododendron austrinum, #NFT by Kevin Songer|
Florida native azaleas are amazing spring bloomers. Surprisingly, the blooms last a considerable while when cut and placed in a water filled vase.
This particular sketch took about three weeks to do and will be available soon on Fine Art America and Rarible.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
The practice of deep listening has revealed to me dimensions of nature I never before imagined existed.
|Deep Listening, Recording the Languages of Nature|
Along with nature's colors and textures, deep listening collaterally has created vibrant imagined images of nature art for my studio's work. More importantly though, deep listening to the languages of nature has also reduced much of the stress typical to everyday life and increased feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
Focused listening to the different nature dialects around us can offer many health benefits. Over eons our human brains evolved an ability to grow new cells and create fresh neurons. Science has documented that learning new human languages is one way to stimulate brain cell growth. Careful or focused listening is usually the first step in learning a foreign language.
With routine exposure to new words and speech patterns our brains over time begin to organize these sounds into neurological patterns that can be quickly accessed, recognized and used during communication. The more we exercise our brains in ways such as learning new languages the more likely the chance our increased brain activity will provide healthy mental benefits through brain cell growth rather than succumbing to neuronal degeneration.
When learning the languages of nature we may gain similar health benefits, including additional important healing and total body health advantages. As with the study of foreign languages, learning nature's languages begins with listening. Intentful listening can take practice and time to master. Once we are successful at compartmentalizing away our daily distractions and we allow ourselves to focus on the sounds around us, we will then begin to recognize important sound patterns originating from Mother Nature.
As with any foreign speech we encounter in our day to day lives, nature's languages are always around us even when we don't consciously realize their presence. Importantly, until we learn to listen and recognize nature's sound patterns, natural dialects can remain an unlearned language to us, lost and seemingly useless chatter in everyday life background noise.
In addition to cognitive health, the adventure of learning nature's languages through deep listening practice can greatly improve the well-being of our heart, cardiovascular system and our body's organs. 'Ecotherapy', or spending significant amounts of time out in nature, has been shown through a number of scientific studies to improve not just our mental health but total body health too.
I've personally adopted the concept of nature therapy as my primary long term health management approach for years now and will go for a hike through the wilds whenever I get the chance. Spending time out in nature has had a positive impact on my health by reducing my blood pressure and stress to manageable levels. This can decrease risks of further aortic damage. Most of us really do understand and accept the premise the we benefit from time out in nature, but the reality is that though we may acknowledge nature based health benefits as important, few of us take the time required to go outdoors, hike, sit and hear.
I've found the concept of 'deep listening to the languages of nature' to be similar to what I've experienced once I learned how to use intenful visualization to recognize nature's infinite array of colors, textures, patterns and visual hues. Though I've always had a special affinity for art (right brained me) there have been times I may have looked at the forest as a swath of muddled green rather than an intricate collection of brush strokes, perspectives and countless subtle blends of blue, yellow and red hues.
A focused study of nature's visual arts has created so much good in my life. Inspiration for my artwork comes so much easier now and subject matter jumps out at me countless times when I am on just a short stroll through the woods. I see examples of nature's complimentary color use evident in an endless array of flowers, bark and leaves. Perspectives, textures, shadows and light lay out captivating possibilities before my eyes in the wilds along the path. Instead of muddled green around me I now live and exist in a dynamic, ever-changing exhibit of mind boggling nature art.
And as with nature's visual arts, so it can be too with nature's languages. Once we begin to focus on the sounds around us, nature's audio will tell illuminating stories full of all sorts of life information.
But to many, sounds come primarily from the television, car radio, digital audio players or the static in our head generated by our overly stressed brains. Most of the information our ears gather, other than from human speech and electronic audio is clumped into a group of audio what many think of as background noise. Unfortunately the healing languages of nature are often lost unnoticed in this ignored class of 'noise'.
And since most background noise is always there around us we ignore the complex sounds, filtering them into the trash file or if we can't quite filter out then suppressing their recognition. Unfortunately, when we filter out the sounds around us we not only lose the unwanted but we also miss out on healthy, beneficial audio of biological, ecological and geophysical systems too.
My personal journey into deep nature listening involved several meaningful milestones, beginning with my South Florida childhood where until my dad installed an air conditioner in the late 1960s, we slept with our windows open. Spending the weekend with my grandparents also afforded me different windows open nighttime sounds as one set of grandparents lived in an open, sandy grassland type ecosystem while the other lived under far reaching live oaks in a semi-tropical mesic hammock. Eyes wide open until the late hours I can remember lying there listening with awe to the mysterious sounds of frogs, migratory birds and wildlife as the Atlantic Ocean breezes rustled the live oak leaves.
Sometimes I'd sit under our backyard mahogany tree and listen as rain splashed against the leaves or watched the brilliant streaks of electricity light the darkened sky, creating black and white contrast art behind the old crooked live oak limbs. I came to wonder about and believe, even as a youth, all life, animals and plants could and do communicate. After all, was there that much difference between air rushing across human's and animal's vocal chords and the wind flowing through, rustling leaves of the ancient live oaks or strumming string like needles of the pines. They are all the languages of nature I would think, just different dialects but all with rich content.
As a teen my interests in natural sciences continued to broaden. I'd watch with amazement how during the yearly South Florida hurricane season, birds, insects and wildlife would disappear before an approaching storm would make landfall. Wherever they went they'd leave behind a deafening quiet, one that made me realize just how loud they must have been on a day to day basis when the sky was storm free. I'd just never really paid attention or practiced deep listening. I should have more often stopped and cleared my day dreaming mind and focused on the animal and plant sounds about me, a task so hard to do then but especially in today's world of digital audio and fast paced city noises.
And so for most of my entire adult life I've been drawn to the complexities of nature's art. And recognition of the intricate ways the universe stimulates my senses has bestowed upon me much happiness and a sense of secure well-being, for I know I don't live in a muddled up mess of colors and mumbled sounds. In fact, we live in the midst of infinite beautiful complexity. And if we chose to brush aside these complexities as background chatter or generic green then we are missing out on some of life's greatest adventures.
Today I carry small digital recorders most places Judy and I may go. One never knows when the bullfrogs may begin calling or the swallow tail kites sing. Storms, thunder and water's courses all speak as do creatures great and small. Plant leaves, limbs and needles rustle in the wind, each with their own unique vibrations so similar to our own vocalizations, all possessing a message. It's not so much how great the recorder is either, rather its about just having any recorder to prompt me to listen to those now recognized languages of nature.
Life is so full of amazing possibilities and opportunities to learn, grow, heal, enjoy and reflect. My path has led me through a period of focus on nature's colors, textures and hues. Yet I always knew though there was more to learn, so much more. Deep listening woke and turned me on to the enlightening dimensions of nature's languages. I know there are many other avenues to explore just ahead, such as scents, tastes, electromagnetic fields just to name a few. We exist in a dynamic universe.
For now I am glad I've begun to learn of deep listening. And the languages of nature are pure sublime.
You can hear some of my field recordings of the Languages of Florida Nature here.
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Audio link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApRh4urFlE0
The Nuthatch chicks are three weeks old now and about ready to fledge. Their vocalizations are much more adult-like now and their appetites are big! Listen in as their parents shuttle in bugs every minute or so into the nest, and as the parents arrive the chicks holler.
The baby birds are constantly moving around in their nest too! This audio makes me realize just how annoying sweet baby's screams can be lol. I'm sure that's why the parents prefer to spend time out foraging rather than listening to the incessant juvenile chatter.
Listen closely for the difference in the chick's racket and the adult's signaling calls.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
This audio is an hour clip of the nighttime calls of many different species of frogs living in a shallow, freshwater coastal pond in Northern Florida.
Here is the link to the audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxGYzO7fmrU&t=1101s
I find these calls to be relaxing and calming, bringing back memories of my childhood when I'd spend the night with my grandparents in their Spanish style stucco house near the everglades in Miami.
With the large windows wide open, the nighttime calls and conversations of the many frogs living in the dense vegetation echoed into the bedroom.
Today listening to these frog calls I am transported back to a treasured period in my childhood, a period full of nature's healing.