JoAnne Skelly: Try hearing your landscape

JoAnne Skelly

JoAnne Skelly

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF
My friend Paul just introduced me to a concept called sound mapping, something he read about at According to author Bridget Shirvell, “Sound mapping can help you unplug and connect with the natural world.”
While you may be very connected to your garden visually, how often do you stop to listen to it? Sound mapping requires stopping and observing the sounds happening around you. Doing this in a natural setting or landscape allows you to more deeply experience what is going on at many different levels.
All it takes is sitting in silence, no phone, no talking, just listening. Perhaps you hear birds singing, crickets chirping or bees buzzing. Maybe you hear the wind shushing through the leaves of trees or a windchime ringing. Try to identify what you are hearing.
Shirvell says leave the phone behind or “at least put it on ‘do not disturb.’” Then sit or lie down some place where you are comfortable. You may want to set a timer for five to 30 minutes. Once situated, close your eyes and pay attention to what you hear. If you feel like doing a sound map, which is a great activity with kids, have a piece of paper where you draw yourself at the center, and then note sounds you hear where you hear them in relationship to yourself.
Put on the map where a sound comes from and what is making the sound. Since this is like a meditation, you may find your mind wandering. Just come back to the sounds “when you catch yourself running through your to-do list in your head.”
I like to do my listening either early in the morning or after dark. I find those times of day to be very active sound-wise. I sit on my porch swing trying to separate out the layers of sound: crickets, frogs, owls, wind or creeping somethings in the bushes. Sometimes I will stand out in our field at sunset hearing the quails talking and rustling in the willows.
One time I had a gray squirrel tell me off with squawks and squirrel growls. At night you can hear the hum of various insects. There are often manmade sounds too (particularly in the mornings): traffic, cars starting, garbage trucks and lawnmowers. I love when I hear the neighbor’s geese and ducks giving someone a good talking to. A nearby horse fancies kicking his metal trough at night, making a sound like a hammer on a metal drum. The morning dogs sound like a zoo awakening.
Slowing down to listen gives you a restful break from your busy life.
JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email 


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment