Like smells, sounds can retrieve memories from long past or emotion times. A song played long ago at your wedding reception or at a parent's funeral service, or a top-ten hit played on the radio during your high school years can each trigger thoughts of those scenes the moment you hear them. I'll be writing more about music in a future topic.
Sounds can also be therapeutic. Sound and music therapy can help with meditation, relaxation and overall wellness. You might remember the Sounds of Nature displays at many department or grocery stores. I used to love to listen to all the samples they offered. Similar therapies are also being used to combat a variety of ailments, including stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, pain, high cholesterol, heart disease and risk of stroke. Even the hearing impaired can benefit from certain sound therapies through visual cues and "vibrotactile" feedback (listening to sound and music through vibrations in the body).
When I asked people what their favorite sound was, the most popular answers were what you might expect -- wind rustling through the trees, bird calls in the forest, babbling brooks and streams, crashing ocean waves and other of nature's sounds. For myself, I would add a few different favorites. Many of the most awe-inspiring sounds I have experienced have indeed been from nature, such as thunder from an approaching storm, a woodpecker pounding a tree in a forest, the freight-train roar of an approaching earthquake and the buzz of an almost invisible hummingbird zooming by. One of the more unusual came from deep inside a glacier in Alaska as a crack in the ice boomed thunderously in the bay to us, a hundred yards away. It reminded me of a frozen lake I was fishing on once as the sunshine began forcing the ice to crack from one shore to the other, only many times deeper in tone and more boisterous in force.
Even annoying noises can become part of your personal memory bank and hearing them again can result in pleasant reminiscing, such as the constant reverberation of a construction site you lived near during your first years as a couple, or the din of a cattle ranch you visited as a child, or even traffic noise outside of your corner office window. Go to a zoo and the cacophony of calls may send you back to a grade school field trip. A baby's cry may remind you of your first born, before you had your parental act together.
The long and the short of it is that sounds can make you smile. That happiness may come from the pleasantness of the tones, the comfort of the harmonies or the memories they conjure. I had some excellent comments about this subject and I'll share a few here. Some have been edited or paraphrased:
EXSSTR- The old babbling brook or a mountain stream is very a relaxing and soothing sound.
Tim and Susie Z.- One of my favorite sounds is chirping birds. They sound so happy, especially in the Spring and in the morning. Usually hubby can identify the bird by their song, so listening is more fun, and it's relaxing to watch the birds fly around, too.
Roving Renwick’s- My favorite is a steady rain on a tin roof with a faint train whistle in the background
P & J Bowen- Two years ago we traveled in the northwest and for four weeks had rain. I had no idea that rain could sound so different every place! It was wonderful to experience, especially coming from the desert!
Warren and Terry of NE PA- I like the sound of a distant train when its raining.
Jojo H.- Love it when tree frogs are chirping in the woods. That sound is very peaceful and relaxes me.
Bob P.- Love the birds singing in the morning and any sound that involves water. Being a Water sign, water seems to bring calm to my life.
Gig's Rig (David and Georgia)- Husband says the rumble of a diesel engine makes him happy. For me, I think, waves lapping on the shore. Oh, forgot wind chimes!!
Ed R. (OCREF)- I love the sound of waves lapping away against the hull of the boat!
BLSMSS- So many but for us, first thing would stop us in our tracks is the roar of military jets. Every time we hear them, we stop and see where they are and just listen. Of course, my husband is retired Air Force, and he says it’s “the sound of freedom”! We also love wind chimes, birds, water rolling in rivers or falls and especially laughter. It's soothing to the ears, knowing life is still going on with all this mess and the love in the hearts.
Dick and Rose K.- I love the sound of a patriotic melody. I love my country, despite it's many problems. I love the band music and lyrics of many of the "red, white, and blue" songs. I love the 4th of July, especially the music. I played in concert, in marching bands and in orchestras for over 50 years of my life. I played percussion and tympani. I love hearing a good band, especially outdoors. It fills my heart with bubbling enthusiasm.
Campingcoops (Andy & Karen)- A baby’s laughter makes me smile every time!
Bill22- The sound of rolling surf crashing on the beach brings me back to my youth living at the Jersey Shore.
Jim G.- An uncrowded beach and a forest so peaceful you only hear the chirping of birds.
Mery Popinz- Waterfalls are soothing to hear, mesmerizing to watch.
Shelley A.- I love the sound of nature. My number one sound that I adore is coqui. All of it is very peaceful to me. [Note: Per the National Wildile Foundation, a “coqui” is a small arboreal frog that’s brown, yellow, or green in color... the term refers to the sound of the call produced by males to attract females and repel other males during mating season. Breeding occurs throughout the year, but especially during the wet season (April to October).]
Cindy V.- I love listening to the sound of a running creek -- each sounds like a note to a different song.
Ayub B.- The sound produced by the wind passing through the trees gives me the feeling as if something had left my heart and is now returning back.
Nadyne H.- I have always loved the sound of wind in the tall pines. It so soothing and sounds like a big exhale.... one day at a time...
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner astutely observed: "All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature."
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.