Evensong ~ 1. a daily service in the Anglican church, also called evening prayer; 2. a song sung in the evening

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’

This Easter Saturday, I spent most of the day in the garden. Early that morning, the bird chorus was joyous and noisy. The first day of true spring weather arrived with warmer temperatures and cloudless blue skies and the birds were celebrating.  It was the time for garden cleanup, pruning shrubs, raking leaves from the garden beds, and a general assessment of the state of the garden and its possibilities for the coming season. I grabbed the camera to record the few flowers in bloom – hellebores, crocus, Iris reticulata, and intense blue of a lonely Scilla siberica. The sun shifted through the sky throughout the day, guilding the garden with luminous golden light. I constantly refilled my water bottle and labored throughout the day interspersed with plenty of rest sessions, usually on a stone step facing south, absorbing the full face of the early spring sun.


As I finished my work for the day and strolled through a garden now ready for the season, I became aware of how different the garden sounded in the early evening. The raucous morning chorus had mellowed into the last songs of the fat robins sorting through the garden beds for an evening worm snack and the chirps of a chickadee who was exploring the beauty bush for a possible nest site. Their songs were separated by moments of quiet; a golden glow had descended and the song of evening matched it, relaxed and reflective.

snowdropsEvery culture and religion has a set of songs that matches the time of day.  Matins, vespers, compline, all music for a time of day. Indian musical culture has scales and songs, ragas, that are only to be used for specific times of days. I found myself wondering, as I wandered through the evening garden, if this tradition arose from gardeners, or at the least, those paying attention to nature, to the  rhythm and song of the natural world.  How different is morning song from evening song! One greets the day with joy and then later celebrates the work of the day and its attendant rest with song punctuated by moments of silence. Here is a lovely video of evening bird song in Vancouver that I discovered online that most closely resembles the sound of my garden last evening. 

Rose hellebore

Although I can capture a few blooms, I cannot possibly capture the feel of this day with my camera.  The slanting gold of evening skies, the winter sun shining on a few bold blooms, an ephemeral butterfly moving so quickly that I cannot capture it, all are etched in my mind’s eye. The camera might capture nothing more than the brown and gray landscape of an early spring garden but there was so much more, a garden of possibilities. The light shifting through the bare woods. Nascent buds swelling on shrubs and trees. The fresh smell of soil awakened from the frozen grip of winter. This day now only resides in my memory of a perfect span of time spent in the company of birds, sunlight, and the spirit of the garden. Spring has arrived quietly and nestled in my gardener’s heart. It may snow tomorrow or the next day, but for me, spring has come on an evening song and I treasure the moment.

37 thoughts on “Evensong

  1. Beautiful writing, and wonderful observations, Lynn. You put into words some of the things I think while I’m out and about during the early spring days. I especially love your last paragraph and this:

    “Although I can capture a few blooms, I cannot possibly capture the feel of this day with my camera.”

    Would that I could… 🙂

    • Thank you for the kind words, Robin. Actually, you are one who really does seem to capture the feel of a day with your camera. I don’t know how you do it but you can make the barest landscape feel magical and fresh, and what you do with a lush scene is even more astounding. I love visiting your visual world 🙂

  2. What beautiful bird song. Thank you Lynn for introducing me to all those U Tube videos. You are lucky with the weather for although we are having lovely spring sunshine at the moment , there is a biting cold wind at the moment.

    • Chris, glad you enjoyed; YouTube is a wonderful resource, isn’t it? We are having freezing weather here as well but warmer temps are supposed to arrive Thursday; gardeners are “chomping at the bit” here, anxious for a bit of color and warmth! Thanks for stopping by; may your weather warm up as well.

    • Thanks, Paul. I’m looking forward to having flowers bloom that I can photograph! I have a daffodil just getting ready to open, if only it would stop snowing here. And sure, you are welcome to live vicariously through my garden anytime 🙂

  3. I was 37,000 ft over your neck of the woods the other day, hard to believe your garden’s early achievers are blooming as brown was the prominent registering colour, but at that height one is a long way from the heart beat of the rhythm of the natural world. Am envious.

    What a mindful idea you put forth regarding songs which match the time day. I have wondered if some of the Himalayan Mountain singers I have heard were doing just that, regardless it is music which seems to have an organic element to it. Sweetness to the ears and soul such as that of spring song birds.

    Back in the early eighties when I was in art school there was a piece by Brian Eno and David Bryne from ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghost’ called ‘Help Me’, which had in its layered tracks a chorus of birds. That track back then opened my eyes and has stayed with me all these years as something special, well at least me it was special.

    Enjoyed this post, for the personal approach you put into it.

  4. What a beautiful post – it’s rhythmic and seems to include so much, but on an intimate scale. Oh how I love those early spring blues of Scilla, I. reticulata, Chionodoxa and you never really can capture those blues, and the feeling of the isolated gorgeous blooms amidst the still raw earth. But we try, right?

  5. Interestingly, Saturday I was wondering how to capture the sounds of my garden. Now I may have to try it. Those who pay attention to nature surely inspired many forms of music, art and poetry, which your post this Easter day IS! Thank you for the beauty.

    • Thank you Colonialist. The birds of western US in the video are a bit different from our eastern birds but it is close enough. I would imagine it is dramatically different in the African forest, but probably similar in the slower calls and increasing silence between them. Is your Nocturne online? I would love to hear it.

      • I expected to find at least one familiar call, but can’t say I did. Beautiful sounds, though.
        The Nocturne features the monotonous, accelerating call of the Bush Dove quite a bit – the intro previews most of the calls which will be developed. It is on my blog as the first item in the player (below the Quests album) on the righthand sidebar.

  6. Miles apart, it seems we shared a similar Saturday. There are no words or pictures that can really capture the feeling of spring – but the evening bird song comes close! Beautiful post. Thank you!

  7. What a beautiful treat that video is! Makes me think it should be titled “Cathedral Woods,” a name used by a favorite textle and mixed media artist I know of from Stirling, Ontario, Hilary Rice. That’s what she named one of her creations, which she says was inspired by her feelings of wonder and closeness with the Creator while walking through the woods. What better place for Evensong!

    • Mary, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. It IS a wonderful video; I’ve played it several times and have promised myself to make one here in my garden later this spring. I will have to explore the works of Hilary Rice; always wonderful to find other creatives who are inspired by nature. Thanks again for your comments.

  8. Kitty, I love your comment of “stations of prayer” – many times, that is exactly what it feels like to move around the garden throughout the day and into the evening. As always, your comments mean so much to me. Thank you 🙂

  9. Thank you, Lynn; for me, you beautifully captured in words and images how the day’s energy flowed for you. Such a gift to read and share vicariously. We made it out for a canoe ride Friday, but gardening joys await the receding snow…happy to see and hear, through your gifts, the colors and sounds that will come to us when they are ready! And I love the “stations of prayer” that a gardener moves through in the course of a day, or season, or year…I have always been attached to “praying the hours,” so the imagery works wonderfully well for me.
    Gentle peace,

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