An Audio Meditation for Earth Day

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 2:10 pm

An Audio Meditation for Earth Day

Another Earth Day is upon us, the 25th in fact. Today will be filled with people talking about sustainability and climate change — from celebrating the progress we’ve made since 1970, to dire predictions for the future health of the planet.

I certainly welcome the conversations, but I prefer to have my offering be listening to the earth itself, at least one tiny slice of it. On a recent trek out of the city, I eavesdropped on a few hundred fellow creatures and with eyes closed, reveled in the rise of spring. It’s fitting that these sounds come from Wisconsin, the home state of Earth Day’s founder, Gaylord Nelson.
At dusk, with large sticky snowflakes falling gently from the trees, two groups of trumpeter swans finally find one another after calling out from clear across the lake. A friend of mine mused that nature is just one huge game of Marco Polo:

The following day, after the snow had finally yielded to the spring sun, the frogs took over the audio landscape. An army of frogs, in fact. (And, yes, I just learned that is the correct term for it… thank you internet.) It’s hard to convey in words what it’s like to be in the middle of this cacophony, and fortunately, I don’t have to! This one is worth sticking with for at least a couple of minutes to appreciate nature’s talent for a long crescendo:

More frogs? Really? Yes!

What I find amazing about this pairing of tracks is that they were recorded within 15 minutes of each other, at two tiny ponds that were no more than 100 yards apart. Yet, the songs are so different. When Gordon Hempton was on the program, he remarked that Earth is a “solar-powered juke box.” I certainly can’t argue with that sentiment. In this case, I can only imagine that one pond was jamming to Prince and the other was singing Marvin Gaye:

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has been crafting On Being episodes for over five years as producer and technical director. He's had the pleasure of recording the world from the streets of Old Jerusalem to the Smokey Mountains, from taco stands in Mexico City to Sufi musicians in Istanbul. When not in front of a computer screen, he loves the outdoors (regardless of the weather), just about every kind of music, and watching his daughters discover the world.

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