On a Beach Walk: No. 54 (Soundscapes)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

How many layers of sounds do I hear as I walk? What if I could magically turn off all the sounds here; then bring them back one by one? In what order would they appear?

From the depth of silence, I would first return the sounds of the waves because they are the beach’s heartbeat. Ever present – always steady – sometimes louder – but the sounds of the sea serves as the conductor of the steady symphony I experience as I walk in this place.

As I stand facing the water and feeling the laps gently caressing my feet, I can hear the tiny bubbles of foam. That air trapped in the water being released into the atmosphere. Maybe that’s my transition sound.

Then comes the wind. The wind can greatly vary in its presence through direction and speed. The wind can pass my ears as a roar of a passing train. It can also be a soft whistle – or even the calming sound and feel of a gentle touch. But wait – the same wind sounds different depending on the direction as I walk.

The next layer would be the birds. As a whole, they are not a noisy lot. The seagulls squawk, but not constantly. The pelicans are stealth as they effortless soar just above the water’s surface. I occasionally hear the tweet of the sanderlings as they fly by.

I don’t hear insects or the sand crabs but it does not mean they don’t create sound. Nor do I hear human traffic or construction – but that may be a different soundscape.

I could add the sound of my feet. That steady bass drum that only I hear as I walk – or the splashing with each step as I walk through the passing water.

People would be the next sound. This time of year numbers are few. Humanity’s auditory presence is not constant – actually infrequent would be more accurate. The sounds in peak season would be different with the kids romping, teens playing beach volleyball, and radios blaring.

A soundscape at home in Ohio would be different than here. Would it be rural or urban? In a meadow or the woods? By day or at night?

Maybe I would start with rustling leaves; then add the gentle waters of a babbling stream. Insects would then buzz followed by birds chirping. Nightfall would remove the buzzing insects and chirping birds of the day, but replaced by the crickets, followed by the chorus of croaking frogs, then the occasional screeches of owls and the howling of mammals.

No matter where nature’s symphony plays, what if one of the sounds were eliminated. A concert with missing instruments. A piano concerto with missing keys.

I think about the lyrics in a Nat King Cole song – Mother Nature and Father time.

Every robin is my brother
They sing their songs to me
The tiny black-eyed daisies
The mighty red wood tree
There all my family

Then why do I feel so lonely
Like a king on an empty throne
There’s one thing that’s missing only
A true love to call my own

Won’t you listen mother nature
And listen father time
Please help me to find someone
To fill these arms of mine
Mother nature and father time

I wonder how many pictures can a soundscape paint? Thoughts of soundscapes are more complex than I imagined – but thinking about soundscapes is a good reason why walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

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On a Beach Walk: No. 51 (Hearing)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Hearing the sounds of the sea as I walk is relaxing. The sequence of the upswell at the start of the breaking waves to the clap of the crest’s splash to the shoosh gently fading away. I even hear the popping of the tiny bubbles as water caresses my feet.

That sound is repetitive and constant while dominating the beach’s soundscape – but both similar and different with each passing day.

Hearing – the only sense relying on vibrations. The shell of our outer ear captures the sound waves of the sea and then directs those waves that we don’t hear then to the eardrum – causing it to vibrate. – which causes the 3 bones of the middle ear to vibrate – yet we do not hear.

The vibrating bones cause another membrane to vibrate – which causes inner ear fluid to vibrate – then nerve endings specialized to a particular wavelength of sound detect the vibrations – yet we do not hear.

Nerves carry the detected messages to a specialized section in the brain that puts all the messages together into what we hear. Ahhhh … now I hear the sounds of the sea that I enjoy.

I think of the classic holiday song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” because we apply our own perspective into interpreting sounds. What one enjoys, another may not.

Without hearing, sound is silence to the listener. They do not hear the emotions music conveys. They do not experience the sounds of nature. They cannot differentiate the soundscapes of the beach, the stream, the woods, and the meadow.

They do not hear the words of love, encouragement, support, enthusiasm, and wisdom. They do not hear the voice that gives one peace. On the plus side, they are protected from the political noise of partisan pickering, personal slander, and consistent vitriol.

I think of the animals in nature whose hearing mechanism is like ours – yet some are acutely more sensitive for protective purposes. Dogs have nerve endings for detecting frequencies beyond our upper range, so they painfully hear the dog whistle that we cannot hear. Deer, who detect a slight rustling of the ground caused by a seemingly quiet step by a human in the distance.

Hearing isn’t the same as listening. Some may say listening is sophisticated hearing. Listening is mindful attention to what is said. Listening is focusing on the spoken words, not on what to say in response. Listening is something we give someone – respect – a gift that connects us to others.

Listening stimulates our thoughts. Listening make one better. Listening leads to a great understanding. Listening connects humanity. Listening joins us with nature as we concentrate on the natural sounds while trying to apply meaning.

But, some favor being heard or hearing their own voice. Then again, maybe they simply favor telling over listening.

Hearing – a sense that we value – yet take for granted. Does listening to loud music through headphones at a high volume demonstrate a greater value for music than hearing? But what did I know then – or simply did I not listen to wisdom? Is this a reason for my hearing aids today?
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I have a choice when I walk. I can hear the wind or I can listen to it. Thinking about what the wind is saying or even letting the mind wander and wonder. After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 34

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Silence on this day as most of the birds – the herons, sandpipers, sanderlings, and pelicans are silent. Even seagulls frequently gather to stand in silence – but it seems they also enjoy hearing their own squawk.

I’m away from the sounds of the street – no cars, no trucks, no motorcycles interrupting nature’s natural sounds. The low tide stimulates my auditory sense with a variety of pleasures.

People sounds at the beach are minimal. It’s the off-season, so there are fewer people than during the region’s prime time (summer) – and present are primarily seniors. Other than friendly hellos as people pass, my ears don’t detect a human presence on the beach.

The rolling sounds of waves approaching the shore stereophonically pass by. An occasional thunderous clap serves as a warning of a high probability of a splash.

Today is a luck day as I notice my favorite beach sound – the steady, gentle splash of water gliding across shallow sand on its way to the beach. The sea seems to be speaking to me – Hush – Be quiet and enjoy – Shhhhhhhh – Listen and enjoy.

I hear the wind interacting with my ears. It’s easy to detect – from what appears as a light touch to a persistent whistle or even a roar. Then the wind’s auditory message changes as I turn to face the opposite direction.

I hear the regular rhythm of my feet on the sand with each step. It resembles a bass drum keeping the steady beat on a glorious sound of a marching band playing a classic march. I loved my band days.

My feet splashing through the water seemingly muddles the steady beat, but it’s still present.

I stop to stand and look out to sea. I listen. I hear the light popping of tiny foam bubbles caressing my feet.

Sounds are my thoughts on this day. One can hear so much when they take time to listen. Meanwhile, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Beach Walk: No. 28

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Because music has been part of my life for many years, I think about the many musical instruments – let alone adding voices to the mix.

I think of the many instruments – brass, strings, woodwinds, percussion, and keyboards.

I think of all the instruments that are variations on a theme – as instruments causing vibrations so the air can transmit their designated tones to our ears.

I think of the vibrations caused by striking, plucking, picking, strumming, bowing, vibrating reeds, fingers and hands changing the length of columns of air, or influencing vibrating strings of different lengths, diameters, and composition – many times followed by boxes collecting the waves to distribute its resonated result into the air for transmission.

I think of all the unique instruments of global cultures – most of which are variations of other instruments found elsewhere – yet deliver something unique.

I think of a guitar – six strings of different diameters with the player’s fingers changing the length of each string to create the notes – unique vibration of air at different frequencies that nobody can initially hear.

I think about the created vibrations transferring into the guitar’s body where it resonates before exiting through a large opening. Along with string’s material, the body’s shape, type of wood, and it thickness are factors determining the final outcome that we initially cannot hear.

I think about the outer ear collecting the sound waves then the inner ear converts them into nerve messages. These are the messages that nerves transmit to the brain for interpretation – Now we hear the music.

Even without words, music speaks to each of us as it engages our soul, stimulates our minds, moves our imagination, and sparks different emotions.

One could say that music is magical – just like walking the beach that is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On an Unexpected Beauty

Knowledge is soon changed, then lost in the mist, an echo half-heard. (Gene Wolfe, writer)
Music is the harmonious voice of creation; an echo of the invisible world. (Giuseppe Mazzini, activist)
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Fame is the echo of actions, resounding them to the world, save that the echo repeats only the last art, but fame relates all, and often more than all. (Thomas Fuller, clergyman)
If you’re in a forest, the quality of the echo is very strange because echoes back off so many surfaces of all those trees that you get this strange, itchy ricochet effect. (Brian Eno, musician)
I recently saw this 5+-minute report from CBS News about a place that is old, but special – simple, yet complex – beautiful, yet haunting. All this equals a sum of amazing. Enjoy.

On a Falling Tree

Everyone knows this riddle: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Here is the good news – I will answer the question. – However, the bigger question is will you agree?

The key is in the definition of two key words: sound and sound waves. The question is whether one considers these two terms as the same or different.

Sounds waves are sequence of a repeating pattern of high and low pressure waves passing through a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. Waves can be of different frequencies, the number of repeated waves over a period of time (usually seconds). Think of different musical notes having different frequencies.

Sound is the interpretation of sound waves. From an organism’s point of view, in order for sound to occur, the organism needs a mechanism that converts sound waves into nerve impulses that are another mechanism translates them into a sound.

Does a dog whistle make sound waves? Unquestionably yes. Does it make sound? To a dog, yes – but to humans, no.

Does the symphony make sound waves? Yes. Does a totally deaf person in attendance hear the sound? No – not to them; but to one with healthy hearing, yes.

Therefore, the falling tree unquestionably produces sound waves – but if nothing is there that is capable of translating sound waves, there is no sound.