Silence in Nature
Peace and quiet. We link the two quite often, don’t we? But sometimes, silence means danger is at hand. I was out for a hike over the Labor Day (US holiday) weekend and once again pondered how silence dominates the natural world. The undergrowth of the forest was like a maze, and I made my way to the backwaters of the Alabama reservoir. Cautiously I approached. I’ve hiked in grizzly country, in mountain lion country and in black bear country. This time, though, I was in gator country.
I had seen a couple of American Alligators the day before. One was about eight feet long, and I have no desire to end up between those jaws. Did you know alligators can run on land? I mean, they can get up off their bellies and run. I’d love a few photographs, but I prefer not to gain them at the cost of an arm or leg.
The first things I noticed when I got to the water were the telltale fallen trees and stumps gnawed to a point. I stepped on a branch and frightened the beaver lounging outside its lodge. So much for getting a photograph of one of those magnificent creatures. Then a Great Egret rose into the air from not too far away and let out its loud croak, a warning call for all to hear. Silence resumed.
Why is Nature so Silent?
I know it isn’t absolutely quiet all the time. Go out in the evening and stay until after dark. The crickets and spring peepers are anything but quiet. The sound is nearly deafening at times. But they take the stage for a few hours, then it’s back to silence.
To me, the silence in nature is a thin veil stretched out and held taught by four stones, one at each corner. Two are fear, and two are terror. Prey fears predator, Fish fears Egret, Egret fears alligator. Predator is hungry and therefore is silent. It unleashes its terror in sneak attacks.
I sat in my kayak one morning before sunrise, floating in the middle of a small, secluded lake. The silence was a nurturing respite from a life filled with sound, most of it incomprehensible noise. A duck quacked on the east side of the lake. It quacked again and then ensued a long, sorrowful litany of sounds not often heard from such affable creatures. Predator, probably a fox or a coyote, made off with its prey. The thin veil fell over the place once again. All living things within earshot had learned once more about the true nature of silence.
The hawk floats above the meadow. Its soft feathers whisper as the air brushes past, but the mouse down in the grass can’t hear such a faint sound. It darts here and there collecting seeds. The first warning of danger is not a sound, but an expanding shadow.
Silence, Fear and Terror Among Men
Mankind in general has forgotten this aspect of silence. Now only those surrounded by war understand, not the warrior, but the child who hides from those who would sell her into slavery or simply kill him. Cowards with mighty weapons prowl the streets of cities in failed and corrupt nations, seeking the young while they huddle beneath the veil of silence like frightened field mice, listening, hoping, praying the predators will pass them by.
In April 2014, Boko Haram drew international condemnation by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok town in Borno state, saying it would treat them as slaves and marry them off – a reference to an ancient Islamic belief that women captured in conflict are considered war booty.
— BBC News
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