Nature has a theory. It’s one that Mowgli alludes to in The Jungle Book – “The forest speaks to me because I know how to listen.”
In a world so fraught with pandemonium, stress and now the uncertainties of a raging pandemic, the mind is in perpetual turmoil. If there’s a way to restore some semblance to the weary soul and calm the restless mind, it’s through tranquil silence. Ephemeral silence too can be a blessing for those living in urban spaces where noise overrides everything and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration that connecting with nature appears to be the immediate remedy to many urban maladies of this century.
But nature is never completely silent, or as we literally mean, devoid of any sound. The natural world is alive and pulsating with its daily business of surviving. The creatures in the oceans, the swish of their tails, the snapping shrimps and the crashing waves as they break on the surface of the pristine water, send a ripple through the senses. On a walk through the forest the sound of the wind through the leaves, the undergrowth abuzz, reverberating with countless insects, frogs calling and gurgling streams are bound to trickle into the ear. Even birdsong – the impressive courtship and mating theatrics as birds flutter their wings and dance, or a species mimicry to survive a predator. These are natural, rhythmic sounds that can be heard all the time. The only difference is these aren’t man-made and they aren’t disturbing.
Nature’s silence, is in fact a symphony of these pleasant, tranquil sounds that are positively elevating. Alternatively referred to as ‘nature’s song’ these natural sounds can only be heard when the mind is still and the soul, calm and awake. In natural surrounds like forests, on nature trails, in a park, at the reef, atop mountains, a little still and quiet allows nature to come into its own. The Japanese for instance regard the sounds and scents of the forest to be a source of healing and comfort. Shinrin-yoku or the practice of forest bathing is a Japanese concept of embracing the sights, sounds and smell of the forest. This can be experienced on hikes and walks or simply spending time among the trees, absorbing the surrounds through all the senses.
But as the need to celebrate nature and imbibe its silence grows more urgent, human interaction with nature had begun to deplete this very reservoir that they seek so ardently.
Nature photography is a rapidly growing activity among the urban folk who find it an easy and affordable way to experience nature’s beauty and imbue its silence. When captured ethically nature photography is a powerful tool to inspire the youth to conserve nature. But what might seem like a harmless hobby, photographers sifting through the wild, their sophisticated equipment slung across their shoulders and binoculars dangling from the neck – if you look from nature’s perspective, especially during bird nesting season when birds require uninterrupted privacy, photographing birds and peeking into their nests to click their fledglings, is an invasion of the subject’s space and welfare. This often leads to birds abandoning nests and fledglings.
Likewise jungle safaris whose purpose is to allow visitors to connect with nature, and get close to photograph wildlife, have become a haunting time for the resident wild. When interacting with nature the basic rule is to respect the quiet natural world without altering or disturbing its order, whatever maybe underway, whether it’s hunting, resting or breeding rituals. At no cost the comfort of the subject should be compromised. Nature photography calls for compassion of the subject and understating of the surrounding natural landscape.
Among the many ways to experience silence in our lives, be it through the conscious toning down of our breathless lifestyle, the practice of mindfulness or meditation – nature’s silence alone restores mental and physical balance like none other. But far away from these natural surrounds where most of humanity is cooped up today, the only possible way to experience its ethereal silence is to siphon it out from the surrounding noise.
You might be fortunate if your upbringing gives you the inherent understanding how to do this. A discriminating ear of a nature lover that can listen and ascertain nature’s silence amid the din. But it’s also possible to learn, and like the Buddhist use breath as an object of awareness to focus their mind on and meditate, all you need is to focus on a particular natural sound. Once your senses get attuned, you will be able to listen into nature’s nonchalant whispers. The wispy silence of the morn, before dawn, and the midnight stillness can be harnessed daily and become your personal tranquil reservoir where you dip in during the noisiest hours of the day when your nerves fray and mind goes awry.