Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grass, Sky, Song Illustrated:
"Of the Air"

The lark bunting, shown here, sings on the wing, a habit known as "skylarking." Toward the end of Chapter 5, "Of the Air," I describe the experience of being in a pasture of skylarking grassland birds. Unlike forest songbirds, which typically choose a high perch on a tree when they sing, many of the larks, longspurs, pipits and buntings that live in open grassland sing on the wing. They climb upward and then glide back down to earth with their wings spread, releasing their songs from a height. Sometimes in a pasture with several birds of two or three species rising up from the grass and then fluttering back down again, it begins to look and sound like an orchestrated jubilation. A group of longspurs or lark buntings will sometimes move together, as if small kites were being sent aloft and then allowed to sail back into the grass. The prairie air redounds with their songs in a music that is as suited to the prairie as the scent of sage or the shamble of a badger.

In this chapter I introduce some of the ideas of American philosopher and cultural ecologist, David Abram (see photo below) to consider what "the birds of the air," have meant for human culture. Abram's book, The Spell of the Sensuous was a breakthrough in thinking about the role of language and human consciousness in what Abram calls "the more-than-human world." Here is an excerpt.

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