March 5, 2022

Listening to the News

Going on sunrise, we go out for morning chores. After I give the goats their grain and fill the hay feeder, there's a bit of a lull while I wait for them to finish eating. I pass the time by listening to the news.

I'm not talking about listening to a favorite AM or FM radio station. I'm talking about nature's news. I step outside the barn and concentrate on what I can hear. I carefully focus first on the sounds around me.

Bird news is always first. Lots of personals because spring is mating season: robins and cardinals have the most boisterous song. A mockingbird is singing its heart out in the overhead crepe myrtle, and I hear the mournful call of a male morning dove, trying to attract a mate. In the distance I hear nuthatches conversing. Mr. Rooster crows his two-cents before clucking to his ladies that he found another tasty tidbit for them. A distant neighbor's rooster responds, announcing that his flock's day has begun.

Suddenly, crows. Not one, but many, creating a ruckus with their cawing. That can mean only one thing; I scan the skies with my eyes, and sure enough. Half-a-dozen crows are chasing a hawk. The hawk screams in response, but the chickens seem to know they're safe and ignore him.

Rustling in the leaves means either a towhee or a squirrel on the ground. I look, and hear a squirrel scolding from the safety of a tree branch. What is it scolding? Ah, Meowy in stealth mode. She's fast and the smart squirrels know it. They tease the other cats, but when they see Meowy all but the unfortunate most daring of them know better than to tease. She's made a meal out of more than one squirrel.

Weather news is next. I listen for current wind conditions while I observe the sunrise. I can hear a light wind in the trees and observe how quickly the clouds are moving and which direction. I observe the color of the sunrise. In my experience, "red sky in morning, sailors take warning" hasn't proven strictly true, but it gives a heads-up on potential conditions, including humidity.

Lastly, is human news. It's a weekday; I know by the distant sound of work and school traffic. On weekends it's quiet. It's only early spring, so the hours and hours (and hours and hours) of leaf blower noise is thankfully past. And it's too early for lawnmowers (around here people start mowing at 6 or 7 a.m. to beat the heat.)

I hear the back screen door bang. There's a pause, then hear it again. Dan's still busy with the chickens, so that can only mean that Katy wants back in the house. I have bells hanging from the door handle, but she refuses to use them and insists on popping the screen door to get our attention. No matter, it's time to finish up with the goats and go inside where the breakfast dishes await.

I try to remember to get news updates throughout the day. Not so much for the phenological information (although I like the sense of being in touch with nature's happenings around me), but because I have discovered something else about this exercise - it resets my frame of mind.

It's all too easy to become fixated on our thoughts. These can be positive and constructive, or they can be negative and stressful. Have you ever noticed how a thought can trigger an emotional response? Or how an emotion can trigger habitual lines of thinking? Identifying this pattern was a first step, and with that, I had to admit to myself that I don't like being at the mercy of my thoughts and emotions. Figuring out what sets it in motion helped me realize that I have choices, and that these choices begin with the thoughts I entertain.

For the past couple of years, we've seen an increasing global obsession with fear and anger. A word, a name, a glance, an assumption, all these and more can pull us into the thought-emotion cycle. At its mildest, this cycle is a time waster. It adds noting constructive to our day. At its worst, it's destructive in two ways. One, it's destructive to others by the actions we take in word, deed, or the attitude we impose upon them. Two, because these emotions release the addictive hormones that set off an inflammatory cascade, which is damaging to our health and immune system. 

So, what's the answer? I acknowledge that some people seem to enjoy being scared or angry. Fear seems to be a popular form of entertainment (think of the popularity of horror films) and anger gives one a sense of power. Both can be used to manipulate others. If they develop into depression, pharmaceuticals are a popular solution. For myself, one of the reasons I chose this lifestyle is because I don't see anything appealing about living like that. 

The words of Paul of Tarsus often come to mind (paraphrased): that everything we need to know to have peace of heart is revealed through nature. So, while humanity is in a uproar over who's king of the hill, the natural creation is going on about its own business, doing what it was created to do. I want to be the same.

Unfortunately, reigning in one's thoughts and emotions isn't a one-time task. Negative thoughts and temptations to fear and anger come at us throughout the day, like fiery darts. The choice is to either yield to them or reject them. Listening to nature's news is one of the ways I exercise control and maintain my peace of mind. 

Listening to the News © March 2022 


Boud said...

I agree that the healing power of nature is important. I open the bedroom window when I first wake, in all seasons, to smell the air and listen to birds, and look at the sky, often still dark. It's a great idea for grounding even though a lot of my life is indoors.

Susan said...

This post was exactly what I needed today. Thank you, Leigh.

Rosalea said...

That is just beautiful, Leigh. Agreed, agreed and agreed! You are bang on. It can be difficult to keep those negative thoughts at bay, but getting out immersed in nature does it for me.

SmartAlex said...

Great Post! Our next door neighbors never seem to know what's going on in the neighborhood. We're outside a lot but we also hear a lot from inside the house because we pay attention. Sometimes we'll ask them "did you hear suchandsuch last night?" No. And it isn't that their house is so sound proof or anything. We used to live there and we could hear plenty of stuff going on outside. Even the wind. They just don't pay attention.

Mama Pea said...

Love your kind of (nature) news! These days it seems it's the only kind that isn't stressful in one way or another. As SmartAlex alluded to, I'm always amazed when I realize some people don't even know what the outside temperature is at a given time. Even up here in northern Minnesota, in the depth of winter, we see people get out of their vehicles in shirt sleeves, dash into a place of business and back out again. (Crikey, it's only 4°, people!) I always hope they have emergency gear in their car because if they don't, it could be a life or death situation.

Leigh said...

Boud, your comment about being grounded reminded me of a lecture I once heard by a naturopathic doctor. He was referring to the fact that each living entity has its own electromagnetic field. He recommended that people (and pets) come into physical contact with the earth's soil(ground) at least once a day, because it syncs/grounds/discharges our own electromagnetic field with the larger earth system on which we live. I reckon it re-connects the parts to the whole. He stressed that this was important for overall health. Somehow, this makes sense to me, although I don't think about it much because I'm outdoors every day, coming into contact with the earth.

Susan, I hope it helps! It's all too easy to step out of the calm center of the storm and into the chaos surrounding it.

Rosalea, it definitely works!

Leigh said...

Alex, good point about paying attention. It seems easy to let other things dominate our awareness, almost as if we have blinders on. It just seems prudent to not be so preoccupied that we are unaware of what's going on around us.

Mama Pea, I'm guessing that it's people who spend almost all of their time indoors that are the least aware. I never did understand about t-shirts in freezing weather; I thought they only did that here, where folks are thinking it will warm up later in the day! I hope you're right about their keeping a coat in the car.

Ed said...

I'm used to listening to the "news" when spending time on the farm. I always enjoyed it. It always amazed me though how people who came to visit couldn't hear the news and instead literally went stir crazy. Some to the point that they cut trips short to go back to their home in town. I never understood it... until that first night in college.

As I was laying in the bed, a pop can rocked across the sidewalk in a light breeze. Car engines strained as they launched themselves from the nearby stop light. There were noisy televisions, laughs, yelling, etc. sometimes filtering into my open window. Finally at about one in the morning, I walked down and stomped the pop can flat, closed the window and laid in bed sweaty until I finally passed out.

It got easier as time went by and the silence of the farm became more noticeable. But having lived in both worlds, I can focus or tune things out as needed now and generally can survive in both worlds.

Yvie said...

This is beautiful and just what so many of us need to hear today.

Florida Farm Girl said...

Yep, I had a full dose of the news yesterday and not a bit of it came from electronics!

Leigh said...

Ed, interesting comment and very much to the point. So much of it seems to be a matter of what we're used to. Being able to focus and tune into (or out of) what we wish is an important skill, I think. It does take some effort at first and practice, but having the discernment and self-discipline are invaluable.

Your mention of city visitors to the farm reminded me of the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. "The Little Bushman" felt sorry for the city folk because they couldn't read nature's signs and were therefore illiterate. I'm sure a lot of people thought it a joke, but it is actually very true.

Yvie, good to hear from you! Thank you!

Sue, refreshing, isn't it, compared to what humans concoct, lol.

Nina said...

Leigh, thought I was the only one who listened to the news!!! I smiled reading your descriptions. Many times during the seasons of wind and rain in the Spring, I sit out in my herb garden and listen to the wind come whirling up the hill and through the trees as though it's actually speaking, "Here I come!" - "Here I go!" When we talk about listening I often wonder whether the younger generation listens to any of this news. You nearly have to have a little bit of imagination to really hear it, don't you think? They have so much of what most consider the real news on their phones, it's a bit scary. Just last year my 15-year old granddaughter came to visit after a big rain and for the first time in her life she got into the mud and felt it squish between her toes. She LOVED it! Fifteen!! Oh, I do hope the young, as well as the old, listen and enjoy the beautiful gifts God has given us.

Michelle said...

Kindred spirits we are, or perhaps more accurately, sisters in the Lord. ;-)

Goatldi said...

Ditto here Leigh. Often wonder how people have time for anything other than what’s going on and they’re a little piece of paradise and still keep the little paradise up to speed on what they want to do. Well said with great intent. Firmly believe that there are those among us who have become so conditioned to be in the way they are at this point they don’t even realize they’re doing it and it makes me sad for them. Have a wonderful day.

Melody Bluebird said...

Thank you for your exquisite post on nature's news. I will share this with friends to remind them of green effect.

Leigh said...

Nina, I think that for a large portion of society, reality is the world on their phones. And it seems that the disconnect is only growing wider. It's fantastic that you could offer your granddaughter the simple experience of mud! Our natural world is such an amazing place, yet people are oblivious to most of it. So dad.

Michelle, amen!

Goatldi, I wonder the same as you. And I agree about conditioning and how that becomes the basis of reality for so many. We can't even fathom a different world.

Melody, I'm so pleased you could relate!

Kathy said...

Amen, Leigh! Nature is a great healer and helps us "ground" when the world around us (or within us) is in chaos.
Thanks for sharing!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh - So much goodness here!

Your description of reading the "news" reminds me of a chapter in Gene Logsdon's The Contrary Farmer, where he describes a similar journey as he makes his way through the barn and the livestock, essentially "touching bases" with each critter as he makes their rounds.

Here, it is a combination of feeding our animals indoors and then going out to walk Poppy The Brave. Inside, I do the same thing as I feed everyone breakfast: M and P The Guinea Pigs are inevitably cheerful in that "Do you have food?" way; I-Bun can be eager as well, but sometimes he is standoffish for some reason. Joy is usually quite ready, smashed up on her ledge in the upper corner of the cage ready for snacks; P the Rabbit was originally very standoffish but now is as eager as anyone else for breakfast. Were they not to be there, something would be up.

Besides the weather - which is a version of which season is it and what will it be, cold or hot and humid - when we walk, I can gauge Poppy's mood. Sometimes she is straining at the leash because she sees a late rabbit or early squirrel; sometimes she just strains ahead for no reason that I can make out. A few times she seems reluctant, either because a dog is barking or something sets her off.

A martial artists would call this Zanshin, the sort of quiet awareness that takes in the environment and all that is around in such a way that one is never surprised: relaxed yet alert, perhaps.

The world is addicted to fear. Fear gives power. Fear makes us powerful in that it gives us something to work and take action again. But fear in this sense is like adrenalin: every time the high fades, one requires a bigger hit to hit the same level. Oddly enough, it is recognized that acting out of fear is less successful than acting from strength or conviction - yet so many people choose the lesser way.

It could in fact be argued that living out of something other than fear can be one of the most brave acts in a society enraptured with it.


Retired Knitter said...

News from nature ... I wish more people were paying attention to that.

Leigh said...

Kathy, you're welcome! Isn't it amazing how something so common and simple can be so important. It's something that I hope more people will rediscover.

TB, I think it primarily boils down to mental habits, and I think having a routine is a useful too for developing and maintaining those habits.

I like your definition of Zanshin. It seems to involve being actively engaged in the Now, rather than fretting about the past or daydreaming about an alternate reality or the future. Not easy! But I think a lifestyle that includes hands-on with nature (animals, garden, even being outdoors) lends itself to being aware of the Now.

Fear is powerfully addictive. So is anger. They become such a habit as to feel "normal." I honestly think people like this don't feel "right" without being afraid or angry. That's a very tough place to have to live.

RT, I agree. I think the world would be a happier place if they did!

Nancy In Boise said...

Wonderful post, 10 stars! I have been watching the robins this last weeks, and our wild duck visitors stopped by for the 1st visit of the year, so we filled the pond. Great reminder!!!

Leigh said...

Nancy, thank you! How nice to have visiting ducks passing through!

Lady Locust said...

I read this the other day while waiting in a drive through then didn't have a chance to comment. I came back to reread it and tell you how poignant it is. I too try to listen to nature and find it to be a defuser of so many stresses we hear and see. Thank you for putting it into words.

Chris said...

Nature news here, and worth pointing out - a couple of months ago, I saw a rainbow across a valley. Admittedly, I've never seen a rainbow in this position before - as I was driving home. I've only seen them from our side of the mountain, from the verandah. They've always had very high arches though.

This particular rainbow, had a very low to the ground arch. Like, I've never in my life, seen a rainbow that deflated. The very first thing I thought was - is this a sign the axis of the planet has shifted, to change the arch of a rainbow?

I've been dying to see a rainbow from my verandah again, for comparison. Although we've had the rain, there's been no sunlight to catch that illusion of refraction. But yeah, thought that was breaking news - RAINBOW DEFLATES!

jamie said...

New to your blog and am rereading 5 Acres And A Dream. I am inspired, once again, to have another go at making my third Homestead.
When I saw the headline "listening to the news" I wondered what 'hot button' issue you would talk about, as there are many to choose from, but, was beyond pleasantly surprised to hear the good news; The natural world lifts the spirit and the mind.
Thank you for taking the time to remind us.

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, thank you! "Defuser" is exactly the right word. It's amazing how well it works, too.

Chris, interesting! I confess, I've sometimes thought things in the sky looked different enough to wonder about the earth axis too. Nature never ceases to be phenomenal.

Jamie, thank you and welcome! I love that you are working on your third homestead. You must have many interesting experiences and observations as part of your homesteading foundation. I hope you'll come back and share them from time to time. Or maybe you have a blog?

jamie said...

I don't blog but if I did it would be a comedy through and through. My husband does not have the same goals as me so it has been 15 years of him just going along with my vision to be self sufficient . We bought 4 wood cookstoves, a simple pump, an Amish made hand water pump ( which we are currently, along with one of those wood cookstoves, back and forth across 600 miles. Which is a comedy all by itself ), and a greenhouse to transition from complete grid dependency.
We have had chickens, geese, ducks and two goats so that was the extent of our animal husbandry. I wanted milk goats but after Jacob Marley died from Listeria? my husband was adamant that we no longer needed four legged creatures on the Homestead. I learned a hard lesson about buying good, healthy barnyard stock and not what was in the budget.
Huge learning curve!
After Jacob's passing his brother Ebeneezer cried nightly for his kin so I adopted him out to Shamrock Bed and Breakfast in Lapeer, MI where he has become somewhat of a mascot on the farm.
My husband and I have had many of the discussions you and Dan have had about going off grid so it is helpful to read your perspective and detailed research. I have to shake my head in agreement with all your points about the cost of not being tied to the grid.
We bought a little place in Madisonville, KY and hope to be closing by July and moving by August. As usual, even at 60, I have so many plans to remove modern infrastructure from our lives. I am sure more comedy will be in the making!
God Bless you and yours, Leigh!

Leigh said...

Jaime, sounds like you have had some difficult but interesting experiences. So it is with the homesteading life goal. I sincerely hope your land plans go through!

Curious here, did you read only 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, or have you read 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel too? I like to ask, because I've received such wonderful comments from people who read The Book, yet SO MUCH has changed in what we've learned and how we do things, that I had to write a sequel to update it. Eventually, there will be a third to the series (I hope) because, again, the more we do and experiment, the more we learn and change. Never a dull moment on this journey.

jamie said...

No, I did not know you had a second book. I will have to go buy that one. Thanks for letting me know and wonder what the third book will be about?
God Bless you both!

Leigh said...

I've actually published 5 paperbacks plus my little e-book series. None of them has done as well as the first one though.

The third to the series will probably be titled something like, 5 Acres & A Dream: Transition to Permaculture. I finally took an online permaculture design course last year and it was both enlightening and encouraging. It's one of those things I wish I'd done when we first got started 13 years ago. I think it would have saved us quite a few false starts and headaches! But, you know how it is. You spend a lot of time experimenting and learning from "failures." Eventually, you find your way. So, once we implement our permaculture plan and have something to show for it, I'll write the book. It's a few years down the road, however, so don't expect any announcements soon, lol.

jamie said...

Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for letting me know and look forward to buying the books!