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by Elisa Ignatius

mallard with ducklings

Mallard with ducklings

Though I wasn’t sure what I’d encounter on a Wild Sound Safari on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, I was intrigued by the idea. Our guide, Gina Farr from Wild Sound Stories, volunteered to lead a hike for MMWD’s centennial celebration on the watershed on June 23. Her version of a safari is to tune into the sounds around you—in front of you, to the side of you, overhead, near and far. I usually walk around Lake Lagunitas chatting with a friend and occasionally stop to appreciate the scenery. But in addition to the sights, Gina opened our awareness to the sounds, pointing out that your vision is limited to what’s in front of you or in your peripheral vision, but that your hearing spans 360 degrees around you.

Our group of about ten walked the circumference of the lake mostly in silence with occasional whispers to point out the source of a bird call (brown creepers, a moorhen) or the crunching of leaves off trail (a deer near a creek). A special treat of the outing was a mallard and her ducklings swimming within arm’s reach of the shore, something we might not have heard or seen had we not been so quiet and attentive.

For Gina, sound has shape and some sounds interact with their environment, such as the wind, which is silent until it passes another object. The sound of the wind through the trees is both pleasant and melancholic to me, and I imagined the wind shaped like soft ribbons flowing through the bay laurels, oaks and redwoods around the lake.

At the end of our safari, we sat near the edge of Collier Spring, an iconic babbling brook that flows into Lake Lagunitas. Gina led us through a 10-minute meditation guiding our imaginations from a drop of rain floating gently down from the sky, meeting with a leaf and falling together into the creek where they continue their journey to the lake. My tensions and worries of the day floated away in that beautiful setting of sight and sound.

Visit Gina Farr’s Wild Sound Stories website: wildsoundstories.com.

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