Birding Business September 2014

IT’S DARK OUT THERE

BY RAY DAVID | Editor/Publisher

I often listen to NPR when I’m driving, and the other day I was completely absorbed by an author interview that kept me thinking for hours.  His subject was darkness, vs. daylight, and the various influences each has on human life.  But what made me think most deeply was a comment about the common night sounds from our youth.

It seems a fairly simple topic but it really struck a chord because I grew up in the suburbs of a big city and I remember absolutely nothing of the night sounds in the neighborhood. The odd train whistle a couple of miles away maybe, but that’s it.  I do, though, have indelible memories of night sounds a world away from the ‘hood; sounds I didn’t know would mark my youth.  We all have distinct childhood recollections that stick with us all our lives, but sounds of the night are rarely among them.  I wonder if you can recall night sounds from your grade school days?

My childhood was unusual in a way, because for many years our family spent most of every summer in northern Canada in a small cottage on a remote lake in the wilderness (half a century ago it was wilderness).  We lived those two months of the year without roads – boats were the only transportation; no running water, just a pail and a path down to the lake; no electricity, just a wood stove and Coleman lamps.  There were also no newspapers, no radios, no TV, no computer games, no getting together with the guys at the restaurant down the street.  Nighttime meant isolation. When you stepped outside into the stillness it was like stepping into a black cloud with a twinkle of stars or the aurora borealis the only source of light. But though the daylight was gone the night turned into a blanket of sound all around.  You could hear a whip-poor-will in the distance, then the lonely call of a loon, frogs by the score, insects beyond number, even the occasional grunt or twig snapping in the dark woods from a bear or moose.  Together they were like an orchestra you could listen to but couldn’t see.

It never occurred to me until that radio interview that many people grew up never hearing what to me was normal.  The peace, the total darkness, the night smells of the forest and the lake cannot be reproduced. But the sounds can be recorded, and that’s what draws me to a birding specialty store. Most of them play recorded nature sounds throughout the store and I find that inviting, even comforting and soothing.  It’s a step away from the ‘I-don’t-have-time-for-it’ of the business day, and into a world only some of us can recall.  I can’t imagine an easier way to bring back that peace than a visit to a birding store, and I often buy something just as a token of thanks for reminding me of how it used to be.

In this issue...

Local Retailing
by Michelle Z. Donahue
Boosting the Neighbors, Buoying your Business

Sticky Situations
by Mike Anderson
Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...

When to Stop Feeding

by Hank Weber
Common Misconceptions

Gentle Winds Stir Sales
by Hank Weber

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