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