Sunday, March 15, 2009
It’s been wet and gloomy here for several days. We’ve had enough rain to push all the creeks up a few inches. Streams meander throughout the park where I’ve been walking lately, and the sound of rushing water can be heard everywhere, accompanied by a steady drip from the trees. While the water’s voice fills the air, moisture softens the carpet of leaves and stifles the usual rustle of wind and wildlife. Twice in the past two days I have startled large groups of white-tailed deer, and they’ve bounded away like ghosts, their hooves silent against the soaked ground.
The sounds in the woods shift constantly as the weather and the seasons change. Listening to them is a big part of the pleasure of hiking for me. The birds’ songs are pretty, of course, and their drumming, rasping, crying and honking engage the ear; but I think what I enjoy most are the more subtle noises. It’s easy to miss the skittering of a squirrel’s tiny feet, or the faint burbling pop of ice along the lake’s edge in midwinter. Even on a fairly windless day, there is always a delicate creaking in the high branches of the trees. I find I have to make a conscious effort to tune my hearing toward the small sounds, but when I do, they fill the aural space as completely as the din of the crows or the woodpecker’s laugh. I feel a little like a spy at those moments, listening in on a hidden conversation.
Mountain Brook, Albert Bierstadt, 1863