An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 7, 2018
Issued from Rancho Regenesis near Ek Balam ruins 20kms north of Valladolid, Yucat√°n, Mexico

OWL PEEPS TRENDING TOWARD JOY

Nights right before and after the Winter Solstice are the longest of the year, which means more when you're without electricity and go to sleep when the sun goes down, and get up with dawn's first light. During these few chilly nights of the year I awaken a bit before dawn and just lie there, enjoying the sleeping bag's toasty coziness, and the quietness.

The first sound of the approaching dawn often is the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl's monotonic and long-running series of simple weep-weep-weeps, issued from beside the hut. A child just learning to whistle can imitate the call well enough to entice the bird closer. And the call just goes on and on. Before long a slightly less monotonic but just as monotonously repeated call wafts in from a distance, a nasal wah wah wah... that also goes on and on, the call of the Laughing Falcon. This call is a little more interesting if only because during certain seasons -- not now -- the wah wah wah... sometimes rises in pitch and breaks into a cackling series of fractured caws that really can sound like someone laughing.

The next bird that may start calling continues the trend toward polyphony and complexity, for it's the Turquoise-browed Motmot with a funny-sounding croaking kind of call, maybe like a frog being stepped on.

As dawn's first light begins to suffuse the darkness, other birds chime in, all of them with more variable and interesting calls than those preceding them -- the Black-headed Saltator's "gruff, accelerating, rolling laugh or chortling chatter," as Howell describes it. Then there's the Melodious Blackbird, and others, reaching some kind of lush aural climax just before the sun's actual rays flood in from the east. That's when Chachalacas strike up their uproariously loud, raucous screeches, which I've captured in a WAV audio file at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/11/chacha.wav

Lying inside my mosquito net hearing all this, one thought that comes to me quite often is that this progression of morning birdcalls from simple and monotonous to complex, rousing and possibly even hilarious as well as beautiful and inspiriting -- echos the evolution of the Universe itself, from Big Bang, to what we have now. And the same kind of evolution can be observed in many of the Universe's more interesting subsets, such as Life on Earth, and the development of human mentality.

With this insight floating in the background, one morning this week I was thinking about the matter that for a long time often I've described the evolution of the Universe as generally trending toward ever greater diversity of parts that are ever more complexly interrelated and interdependent.

That word "interdependent" has always jarred me a little -- even though it's true. Maybe the word jars because by nature I personally like to be dependent on as few others as possible, and I see nothing wrong or retrograde about being like that.

Moreover, the gradually evolving chorus of birdcalls heard these mornings -- which I imagine to echo an evolutionary pattern similar to that of the continually evolving Universe and its major subsets -- seems to make no reference to interdependency. The birds' symphonic climax sounds good-natured, unreservedly ebullient, even joyous, with the only connection with interdependency being in the mind of the beholder. It's the mind that understands that without the various birdcalls on some aesthetic level depending on other birdcalls in the community's to be harmonious with their own call and the environment, what's heard instead of being beautiful is just noise. Interdependency simply happens, with natural evolution taking care of the details.

Maybe the lesson here is that if we are to form communities as agreeable to live in as it is to hear birdcalls on a dewy morning in the Yucatan, there's no reason to concern ourselves with consciously structuring the community for interdependency among its citizens. Just be ourselves, and if we are true to ourselves, then interdependency, or community, results, and it is beautiful.