It's amazing what you notice when you stop looking for things and instead just listen. If I put my head down, even with my eyes open, and just focus on my sense of hearing instead of sight, I hear even more sounds. An airplane flying over, how traffic sounds on this street, that street, a far away street, the sound of a bus versus a car, a dog barking about a block down, my neighbor arriving home from school. We are constantly surrounded by sound that is informing our brain about the world around us.
This weekend, try going out to your favorite place and creating a sound map. It's a great activity to try with your kids, and a great way to practice focusing. I find the activity quite calming, myself. All you'll need is a piece of paper, something to write with, and maybe a clipboard or something else to write on. Find a spot at a local park or nature preserve where you can sit comfortably for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, looking only at your sheet of paper, draw what you hear around you and where you hear it in relation to yourself (I use the center of the paper to represent my location). Don't worry about the quality of your drawing, focus instead on recording every sound you hear: birds, rustling of leaves on the ground, wind blowing through tree branches, footsteps of a passing hiker, rushing water. And if drawing isn't quite your thing, you can instead write the sounds you hear.
I did a sound map from my couch for a few minutes just now, and here's what I heard:
(I told you the quality of the drawing didn't matter.)
In my few minutes here's what I heard and mapped:
- An American robin doing its alarm call ("Tut! Tut!") in my backyard
- A house sparrow do a single chirp in my front yard
- Three cars go by on the road outside my house
- A bus go by on the main road 2 blocks away
- The loud music of a car going by on the road behind my house
- A plane flying overhead
- A Carolina wren singing on one side of my backyard, then on the other side
- The feet of Peanut, my male cockatiel as he walked on top of his metal cage bars, then slid down the front of the cage to come sit on my feet (he's a good blog helper).
- A squeak from Tucker, my female cockatiel, also on top of the cage, then the sound of her preening her tail feathers. She then went to the ground (I forgot to draw her flight) and I heard her feet inside a cardboard box