The sounds of the Earth

Even though there's masses of open countryside in Sussex, the sound of contemporary technology is never far away.

Just a Thought wiith the Bishop of Chichester SUS-171110-140358001
Just a Thought wiith the Bishop of Chichester SUS-171110-140358001

Planes fly over the downs, trains run up the Arun valley, roads crisscross the Ashdown Forest.

The result is that today we find it as difficult to hear the sounds of the earth, as it is to see the stars in the sky.

So what are the sounds of the earth? How could they be of any importance?

In a recent novel, Reservoire 13, Jon McGregor gives a haunting description of rural life in the Peak District.

It centres on the unsolved disappearance of 13 year old Rebecca Shaw. Interwoven into observations about the human relationships that adjust and continue as the years pass, McGregor describes the sounds of the earth.

Water thaws and runs; animals burrow and breed; birds sing and build nests; crops ripen and rustle in the wind.

These are all sounds that we are generally not attuned to. But they were familiar to earlier generations as another way of reading the climate and the seasons.

In the Christian tradition, attention to the land, its rhythms and sounds indicates the extent to which a connection with the earth shaped our thinking.

Sowing by hand is an extraordinary thing.

You can hear the rustle of seed in the hand and the falling of it on hard ground, like hail. That’s a labour intensive work.

And one of the ancient Jewish/Christian hymns in the Bible says that in a good harvest, the thick corn seems to laugh and sing as it stands thickly in the field.

The contemporary harvest is no less amazing as a product of imaginative, responsible farming that is still hard work.

But today we don’t hear the sound of the corn as being like laughter and singing.

As a result, we are less inclined to be delighted by the availability of the food the earth gives us, and to be grateful to the God that made it so.