!! Ahhh, Emergence Magazine…

Foraging through the back issues and found this, David G. Haskell on Listening to the Language of Birds. Unsurprising to any solitary readers of this little corner of the webs, I’m a total fan:

The Language if Crows

The Language of Sparrows

Now, full confession: I’m no great twitcher. My human cloth-ears and dulled senses struggle to identify each call, but I dont think you have to be either, in order to start listening, attending, relating to Birdtongue.

Haskell outlines some of the ancient benefits; tuning into notes of alarm or excitement, messages about your surroundings encoded in nature’s twitter and chirrup. Birdcall and birdsilence foretells oncoming storms and the nearness of predators, for example. I remember their sudden, eerie quiet on the rare occasions of solar eclipses, as if the feathered too pay their respect to the moment.

But birdtongue isnt just an Early Warning System (albeit an excellent one)… For myself, it lifts me out of the Cartesian cage. It’s my way ‘in’ – in that David Abrams, Spell of the Sensuous way, into an acutely living and interacting landscape.

Yes, sometimes those birds really are talking to you. 

I remember clearly a sense of excitement and aghast humility when I understood that these beings actually directly relate; shouting for gardening too noisily, or stumbling too near their nest’s… It was like the whole world had been trying to get our attention for a very, very long time, and we had our ears stuffed with cottonbuds.

Paying attention turns the ‘what’ into a ‘who’. Not birds in the plural, but this Sparrow in the particular. This fledgeling Robin, those three Crows being bandits over there.

It turns my surroundings into our neighbourhood, our community.

When we truly envisage ourselves as living in a shared landscape, with all the other forms of being who are Right Now acting according to their own passions and motivations just as we are… Well, it seems only polite to listen. It puts a new perspective on how recklessly we tarmac everything, rip out hedgerows or bulldoze the trees without a thought to who might live there.


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