At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Talk with the animals

 This morning before the wind began to blow, the meadowlarks were singing to each other.  Their songs may sound cheerful to one person, and melancholy to another, but to the birds they present a specific meaning that is not so open to interpretation. 

Birds use songs to communicate with each other important information about their environment, or about their territory, or even verbally cogitate during problem solving sessions (think aloud).  Some birds sing so quickly or at pitches  that we cannot hear so that their complex songs sound like a single note to our ears.  The more social a bird is, the more songs it will have, and some birds, rooks and crows, have been found by researchers to have developed languages equivalent to the verbal capacity of an average human child. 

Some of these more intelligent birds make and use dozens or even hundreds of tools, and use their songs to convey information learned by one generation of birds to the next – an achievement that classes them with the more highly developed animals of this planet, including the greater apes and dolphins. 

Even trees communicate with each other, using chemicals and other impulsive signaling, they can coordinate defenses against aggressive insects, or balance the ratio of female and male members of their community in response to environmental pressure.  In plants, communication is a responsive and often chemical or physical response to stimulus, and sheds insight into the development of communication in the Animal Kingdom: Charles Darwin and his family studied this to gain the first primitive insights into neurology. 

Humans have developed their skills of communication further by making a physical record of the songs we sing.  On rock, paper or clay, we can record information for generations thousands of years in the future to enjoy.  If the record is preserved from destruction by the elements or enemy humans who, since the dawn of record keeping, have sought to destroy records when utterly annihilating an enemy.  Just as the birds I heard this morning tried to drown each other out with their songs.

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