I try, however, to always take a few minutes to be still and listen. Over the past few weeks, the birds are strikingly different. The commuters have all headed south and the aves that will over-winter are settling in for shorter, colder days. The numbers are down, the volume is down, but the messages are much clearer. Each chirp and whistle is much more distinct without all the competition. The cooler, drier air delivers a crisper sound, too.
The leaves no longer whisper above me. They rustle and crunch - and mostly on the ground, except for those oak leaves which refuse to let go until a new bud pushes them to complete the nutrient cycles decaying on the forest floor.
This week, the forest was very quiet compared to the wet spring (and summer this year) that brought out the riotous amphibians and insects. It occurred to me that another sound this fall rivaled those loud creatures - children. Small, medium, large, and I'll even be brazen enough to call the visitors from the Rockcastle Adult Day Center children. Who isn't a child when you picnic in the woods and sing songs around the campfire? And it did not matter the age of the boy who visited - four, ten, thirty-four, or seventy-four, they could not keep their hands off the irresistibly long, whippy bamboo. The diversity in ages also kept us on our toes with logistics. As our director said, "Eighty high school students take up a lot more space than 80 second graders." Eighty high school students can also do a lot of trail work and eat a lot of marshmallows!
This fall the sounds of children trying so hard to be quiet and listen for the calls and scamperings of animals, the sounds of children hunting for seeds, the sounds of children emptying arthropod pitfall traps and discovering BUGS!, the sounds children roasting marshmallows, the sounds of children clearing and planting a garden surrounded the nature center.
Outdoors we learn so much from listening - we learn about bird territories, squirrel habits, depth of rushing water. We gain an inner calm. It was beautiful to listen to children learning. While we want to share the skills and calmness of listening - and we will continue to do so, I do love to hear the laughter coming through the trees.