Avian Satori

In Japanese Buddhism, the word “satori” refers to “an awakening,” more particularly a spiritual awakening that often happens suddenly.

In the bird world, especially among temperate zone songbirds, each and every dawn during the breeding season begets an “avian satori,” a vocal awakening and celebration that occurs in the magical “twilight portal” between night and day. The avian satori is characterized by a rather sudden explosion of creative energy and sound that occurs at first light. For those of us humans who regularly witness this awakening, the effect is always deeply moving, a validation of the intrinsic spiritual power inherent in the event.

And so this morning I myself bore witness to the coming of dawn. Once again I was in Shindagin Hollow, this time placing my soundscape microphone near a small stream that in recent days has been reduced to a subtle trickle of water that only sounds off at specific locations. I set my microphone about fifteen feet away from the sounding water and then settled back into the silence as the birds awakened one by one and voiced their greeting to the new day.

This recording begins just before the first bird sang, a gentle trickle from the brook and then a string of songs and calls from a nearby Scarlet Tanager. Over the following ten minutes or so, a Veery and Wood Thrush join in, followed by Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, American Robin, and more. This is a midsummer chorus, gently subtle, with no overpowering elements. It is a delicate symphony and should be played in a quiet setting, the volume kept low and natural … otherwise the magic might be lost.



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