At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
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Contemplation - instinct?

It must be summertime again!  The crickets are singing and the temperatures are warming up.  Did you know that crickets can be used to tell the temperature?  The Library of Congress reports that “the frequency of chirping varies according to temperature. To get a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37. The number you get will be an approximation of the outside temperature” (

The crickets are not the only ones singing about summer.  Whirlwinds have been seen, too: these long-lived whirlwinds are believed by many cultures to be the ghosts of people, some good, some bad.  Though rarely as strong as tornadoes, they have been known to reach tornado intensity on occasion.  They occur in summertime, mostly, though sometimes they occur in winter too.  Here on the Palmer Divide, they are summertime occurrences, and I have seen them strong enough to lift metal sheets weighing many pounds. 

Animals react to the changing seasons in many ways.  In physiological and scientific terms, animals are sentient, conscious creatures, with emotions and memories just like people.  What summertime means to them may be a mystery to us, but, just like people, they also experience chemical reactions to the changes in temperature that are as predictable as a calibrated thermometer.  Sometimes, though, animals (and people) surprise us.  I have seen a horse kick at a threatening whirlwind, and wild antelopes stop and watch a whirlwind’s passage.  How we react to warmer temperatures is as individual as our ability to overcome our instincts: I have no doubt that a cricket need not sing faster with warmer temperatures if they wanted to.  But why would they want to?

There are so many of our own instincts as human beings that we don’t even question.  With the change of season, it is easier to see how other people and animals react instinctually, and take a moment to think about our own instincts.  That is a truly human reaction to the change in temperature, but whether it is instinct to be contemplative I don’t even risk a guess.

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