The sound of birds

Comfort Foods.  Why does no one ever talk about “Comfort Sounds” ?  The other day I wrote about the absence of annoying sounds here in rural S. Texas, but this morning as I was sitting here reading my morning news feeds I was struck by the abundant bird sounds and remind that all my life the one sound that brought the most peace to my soul was the sound of birds.

Even more than that, I remember the one time in my life when I heard absolutely NO bird sounds.  In the early 80’s we took a family vacation to Guadaloupe — one of the Departments of France — in the Carribbean.  The sounds of birds could not be escaped.  For three weeks, during the day, during the night, in the sun, and in torrential downpours of rain the one constant was the sounds of happy birds.  Except for a couple hours.

Those two hours were the time we spent hiking to the top of La Grande Soufriere — the mostly dormant volcano and the site of a national park.  Climbing towards the top of the 1467 meter peak we heard birds just as we had been hearing them all along.  But when we neared the top, along with the acrid smell of sulphur we noticed diminishing and finally cessation of all bird sounds.  You’d think that as loud as they had been earlier in the hike that the sound would travel — but not so.  As we reached the summit it was dead silent except for the sound of the breeze.  It was otherworldly to be sure.

I don’t know if it was the suddenness with which the bird songs ended, or just the absolute silence, but ever since then a sound which had always filled my heart with enjoyment took on the nature of something holy.  Oh, men have ways of making music and it’s beautiful — inspiring even — but the diversity of sounds that God has intoned in the throats of his critters is — to me — absolutely holy.

Maybe that’s why I get so tight-jawed when I hear stories about extincting species because of the activities of man.  I know people get upset at the idea of stopping a multi-million dollar project because of the nesting grounds of some critter the developers don’t care about but I keep asking myself how many of these I-don’t-care-about-them species we can lose before we begin to lose what is essential to our life.  There is so much we don’t know about the universe; I’d hate to think we destroyed the cure for cancer because we had to extinct a species that could have saved countless lives — if only we’d known.

Of course that’s part of the problem.  In my life I have seen huge changes in opinion about food and living all because we are ever learning about our world.  Salt  was good, now it’s bad.  Eggs were good, then bad, now good again.  Without a lot of trouble a person could make a list longer than my arm of the radical changes that have been brought about because of advancing science.  How we treat illness has changed radically.  When Peg’s mom was dying of cancer the doctor’s didn’t want to give her morphine because she would become addicted. Never mind that she was terminal.  Never mind the excruciating pain she was in — they didn’t want to turn her into a dope addict for the last few weeks of her life.  Come on now….  I think about dentistry and how the attitude about pulling teeth has changed.  Or heart surgery — my dad had several heart surgeries in a day when they were almost experimental.  Nowadays the process is very different and it seems almost everyone has it.  (not really — I just hang with a bunch of heart patients. 🙂 ) In the late 70’s I needed gall bladder surgery and my surgeon (never hire a surgeon with big hands) was a huge guy about my size — I never thought about what my scar would look like until after  it was all over.  Believe me when I say my scar for gall bladder surgery is longer than many of the scars for heart surgery today.  It extends from my solar plexus to my belly button. If you didn’t think about it you might be prone to ask if my heart and stomach had changed places! 😳

The world without critters, or the world without birds, would be a very different place.  We chug along through life thinking that our oil pipelines and our fracking are nothing more than opportunities to make money but what we really don’t know is …. a lot …  !!!!!

We have a few years experience of what our activity will do to this earth, and we act as if we had a spare planet to which we could escape if we screw up this one.  But we don’t.  This is it.  This is home.

For now I’m happy that I don’t even have to open the window to hear the sound of the birds.  They are so prevalent that walls, or no walls, their happiness comes through loud and clear.  If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that from time to time I do comment on the birds and how much I enjoy them.  I guess that repetition is my substitute for yelling and screaming.  That’s how much I appreciate the world we inhabit.

I know that there are political opinions around that demand that we cut our budget.  I suppose that’s a good idea. Heck, I have to live within my  means, I think the government should too.  But cutting back on things that make this world safer, things that retain species diversity, and the humane care for other humans are not expenses that we should run rough shod over.  They are real intricate parts of a delicate ecosystem that we should be finding better more efficient ways of dealing with.  At least this one blogger things so.

But, it’s Saturday morning and the birds are happy.  I’m happy to.  As long as I have my birds. 🙂



3 thoughts on “The sound of birds

  1. I am with you, Peter…love the sounds of birds. A day I wake up to birds is almost guaranteed to be a good one. As far as saving species. I think it’s good unless it is to an extreme, which has sometimes occurred. Only recently, I saw my first bald eagle and it was akin to a religious experience. They were endangered when I was growing up and now they can be seen everywhere.

    I think the first step to cutting budgets is to cut the over-the-top pay and benefits of our lawmakers. To be fair, they should be paid well but some of those salaries and benefits for life seem quite extreme.

    The trend I have noticed over my lifetime is an erasing of history because of political correctness. I think rather than erase the things that, in the long run, were not positive, we should state that things were different during certain time periods…not always in a good way and we have evolved. That some time in the future we might see things we are doing now that in the future seem quite wrong…but we evolve, still. History teaches us things and if we are smart…we don’t repeat it. But, if we don’t know about it…were screwed. No joke…I knew German’s who didn’t know about Hitler’s regime…erased for education. Sometimes evil is hard to confront or makes us feel uncomfortable but pretending it didn’t exist isn’t good either.


    1. The sight of a mature Bald Eagle in the wild stops me in my tracks every single time. Like you, I grew up at a time when we didn’t know if our “national symbol” would survive; so seeing them in large numbers now as can be done in some places is thrilling for reasons that are far from rational.

      The hopes of any substantive reform in government as long as career politicians are running the show are nil. Things like the National Endowment for the Arts that are targeted in Prez45’s proposed budget are such a minuscule part of the budget as to be laughable, and the tax cuts to the wealthiest are so aggrieved that “politicians” clearly aren’t going to fix this country. Most likely is a swing of the pendulum, followed by another swing of the pendulum, and I have no doubt that at some point in time we are headed for another revolution of some form. In the dark ages the rich could do what they wanted without the poor even being able to know about their actions, much less do anything about it. In todays’ media rich world the rich find it harder to hide — though they do find ways to hide their assets. Offshore or wherever.

      To me, it’s always about unintended consequences. The founding fathers had a lot of great ideas; what they could not anticipate was the way human nature would work on those ideas. It might have been smart to prevent the popular vote from selecting a president, but the electoral college created just as many problems as a direct vote — just different problems, not the least of which is entitlement on the part of the rich.

      I have heard so many people of means complaining that the Obama administration created a sense of entitlement among blacks in particular, but among the poor in general. What no one talks about is the sense of entitlement felt by the rich. I think that does more harm than good; greed and hordeing never help the populace. Privilege doesn’t even out the scales of justice — but in a world where no one wants to be accountable and where no one wants to acknowledge the possibility of absolute values, the concept of justice is perverted beyond recognition.

      I agree about acknowledging history — but I really question how many people are willing to hold their own values up to scrutiny. I think there’s something intrinsic in our affinity for groups, whether it’s sports, or ethnicity, or politics, that relates to the concept that if you are part of a group whatever the group does or says has to be right — no matter how wrong you might have thought it if you were left on your own. Sports teams make a minor noise when a player is convicted of violence, or rape, or some other offense but as soon as the print has dried on the page they are back to rooting for the player all over again. Same with politics. Same with companies. The fraudulent manipulating of emissions controls by VW sound horrible when you think about the vast number of vehicles involved — but when you hear about a VW executive being arrested and refused bail the story is spun so that you are expected to feel sorry for the executive, not for the damage done to the atmosphere.

      The first thing military people do when contemplating a war is to de-humanize the enemy. It’s easier to send people out to kill and maim and incapacitate others if the soldier sees the enemy as less than human, less than they, something vile and despicable. The idea that the masses of public are ever going to want to see that they were part of a society that did great evil is, I think, unlikely. People don’t want to acknowledge the lynching of blacks in the U.S. — for many the concept of millions of humans being gassed to death in Nazi concentration camps is completely unbelievable. — just as some of the same find it impossible to believe that Nasa ever landed a man on the moon.

      I suspect we see history not as history existed, but as we exist. I know that not having been in the military it’s difficult for me to even imagine the horrors my contemporaries witnessed in Vietnam. I have no brutal friends. I do not hang with drunks and druggies. There are things I have no ability to conceive — and I am glad, frankly. But I realize that until I walked the grounds of several concentration camp remains that the horrors there were just ‘stories’ — being there, seeing, touching, smelling brought them to life — but how many people will ever make those visits, and how much are the stories sanitized and abbreviated as time goes on. The absence on the scene of those who endured makes it even harder. Fewer and fewer of those who survived remain. Some day soon it will be nothing more than stories to all who are alive.

      I don’t know, Karen. They are huge problems. But we are being led by a bunch of rank amateurs who’s word cannot be trusted. Tillerson is saying that the days of patience with N.Korea are over and the saber rattling begins — because one thing is sure — when your country is at war people tend to unify. War accomplishes a LOT of purposes — sometimes having nothing to do with the people being fought against.



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