I woke up yesterday morning early, just as the summer solstice sun was beginning to shed its fresh light upon the newly emerging day. The head of my bed faces south and along the east wall of the bedroom is a large double window – from which I could see the early sun rays, dappled by the leaves from the surrounding trees. Why, I wondered, how I awoken so early? I felt that something was trying to get my attention, but what?
And then I realized what it was. The birds were singing. It sounded like a multitude of them, each chirping or tweeting or blurting out their special tunes and rhythms….with others joining in by singing their own songs, in their own way.
Nestled in my bed, I marveled at these sounds, which seemed like a concert. In all my life, I had never heard the birds singing so clearly and musically before. It was a tremendous joy to just lie there and listen to them – and I realized it must have been this bird concert that had awaken me from my dreams.
I could feel the sounds pouring through me, through all my orifice-not only my ears. And it felt as if the sounds entered my heart, and then coursed through my bloodstream; they breathed in with the air I inhaled, and went through my lungs, freshening me throughout.
I remembered that sometime, somewhere, a few years ago, an indigenous man had told me that one reason people feel sad and depressed in the cold climates in the winter time is not only because of the lack of sunlight; it is also due to the lack of birds. He had said that birds are companions for humans, and sometimes we do not recognize how profoundly their songs and presence impact us in powerful ways.
That evening, as I was pondering what to write for my monthly column, a flood of possibilities poured through me, but a little voice in my head told me to wait. And as I was doing some gardening (or better put, pulling of so-called weeds) at the front of my house, I heard the loudest bird conversation! In emphatic, staccato exchanges that were sharp and deep in tone, several birds I could not see were clearly communicating. What birds were they? It took me a while to realize that a petite greyish bird perched on the ground and his friends in a nearby bush were the culprits!
This little bird then looked at me, right in the eye, and seemed to loudly say, “Write your article about sound and songs. They are healing.”
And then I remembered, from the faint recesses of my mind, how my son, when he was younger and having some serious behavioral challenges, had gotten some profound healing from the sound healing therapy widely used in Europe and Latin America called “Tomatis.”
From participating in that therapy (undertaken in Chile), I learned much about sound. I learned that the first sense a fetus develops is sound. The ear develops early in human gestation, and a growing fetus hears its mother’s voice, albeit in a special way as it passes through the amniotic liquids.
The Tomatis therapist asked me to record my voice; they had a technique for distorting my voice to make it sound the way my son would have heard it when he was in my womb. Then, they played this back to my son for a sustained period of time. They also had him come to a series of sessions where he listened to specific classical music.
They claimed that doing this can shift brain patterns and often help with so-called ADD and/or learning disabilities. While he still complains about these sessions, I do believe they made a difference.
Which brings me back to bird songs. While the early morning bird concert the other morning was a joy, the truth of it is that even in Keene – which is not a big city – I find it harder and harder to find places of silence where the bird songs can penetrate in full spectrum and one can find the solace in the sound of nature without human additions. My house is nearby a highway, which brings unending noise day and night; the many motorcycles and lawn equipment most weekends blare out intermittently and unexpected times, shattering the quiet; and between construction teams, the downtown alarm that is so loud and strident, and ambulance, police and fire, sustained quiet is almost impossible.
I am resigned to this reality of modern day life, and yet I want to suggest that perhaps one (of many) reasons there such a sharp increase in learning disabilities, depression and despair may be as simple as the fact that we human need quiet to listen to the concerts of the birds on a more regular and sustained basis. Maybe, in a manner of speaking, that is what the Tomatis therapy was trying to accomplish. There is much healing in sound, and in the sounds of nature.
Published in the Monadnock Shopper, July 2015
Litchfield Co., CT