Sing, Sing A Song

By: Mary Richmond

When my children were young there was a song on Sesame Street that they sang incessantly. I don’t remember all the words, but it started with the line, “Sing, sing a song…” and I find myself humming, if not singing, that simple ear worm of a tune at this time of year.

Spring is the time for singing in the natural world. One could argue that singing comes to all as naturally as breathing. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to add some dancing to that as well. All one has to do is watch a few nature shows and you can find examples of many types of animals both “singing and dancing.”

I wake very early, often before the first light streaks across the dawn sky, but I’m not as early as the robin in my back yard or the song sparrow in my front yard. Both burst into song just thinking about daylight, I think. The cardinal and mockingbird are right behind them and before long the famous dawn chorus of hundreds of birds will be heard across the land.

Birds sing to declare territory and to find a mate. Scientists tell us birds do not sing for joy but if you want to enjoy the thought that they just might find a bit of joy in their song bursts, go right ahead. I don’t think relating to nature on a personal basis hurts either it or us. In fact, it may help all of us in the end, to save what’s left—of both nature and our own sanity.

Amphibians sing their own special songs each spring. Wood frogs quack like ducks, toads trill and peepers squeak. In summer the insects sing all sorts of songs. Each species has its own song. This helps individuals find others of their own kind in a world full of noise.

Some mammals seem to sing, especially coyotes and wolves. We’ve all heard the whales sing through underwater recordings, and in the jungles and deserts all sorts of animals make many kinds of haunting sounds. Even fish have been recorded making musical sounds, though most of those come from the opposite end from their mouths.

Singing is one of the first things tiny children do naturally. They aren’t always in tune or making much sense, at least to adults, but they are communicating in their own musical, if not always harmonic, way. They also bounce and wiggle, precursors to dancing, before they walk. Many animals perform various movements to impress their prospective mates, many of which could easily be interpreted as dancing to the whimsical eye.

Music is a universal tie across nations and boundaries. People have sung and danced together forever. Even now, most of us have special songs we love and many of us sing away in the privacy of our cars or showers. We make playlists and can easily name songs that were important to us at different times of our lives. Music soothes us, excites us and allows us to open up and move in ways science has proven are good for our hearts, lungs, brains and muscles. Singing and dancing, it seems, are not only ways to connect to other humans, but to nature as well.

When I walk in the woods I can hear the trees singing some days. There’s cracking and groaning and whining but if I stop to listen I can hear the ways in which all the sounds connect. Leaves rustle, winds whistle and whisper and dropping fruits and nuts add a bit of percussion. At the ocean’s edge is easy to get caught up in the rhythm and whoosh of the waves, the tinkle of shells rubbing against each other and the low rumble of stones rolling over other stones.

It’s spring. What better time do we have than these sweet early days of warmth and calm to listen to the songs nature sings all around us? Enjoy the songs you hear, wherever you are, and if you have the chance, sing a few songs and dance a few dances yourself. It’s a natural high.