In a quiet time

There are few machine noises these days, just the occasional car in the distance or neighbors working in their yards. The bird song has been astounding, as if they can now hear each other clearly and are no longer struggling to communicate through a wall of manmade sound.

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. ~Rumi

I was weeding near the ‘Snow Fountains’ Japanese cherry tree yesterday when I heard a loud buzzing sound. It was the first bumblebees of the season as they dove through the branches and nuzzled blossom after blossom.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
~ Kobayashi Issa

I love the quiet moments in my garden. Did you know that scientists have discovered that as we isolate and stop our frenzied pace, the earth itself has become quieter?


Spring holds hope for a new beginning and this year is no different, but perhaps it is more important and more longed for in these strange times. The sun shining through blossoms of the spicebushspicebushbranch

and the light on the footpath lightonpath

seem to promise renewal and fresh beginnings at a deeper level – I hope so.

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. ~Rilke

The daffodils and Virginia bluebells are opening . . .

along with late blooming double hellebore ‘Rose Quartz’. hellebore1

Life is uncertain yet we can still be kind, still be thoughtful, still be loving. Each step in the garden reminds me that Mother Earth and her creatures are flourishing even as our human world is turned upside down. My greatest hope is that we will find a way to live in harmony with each other and with the earth. Many people are in desperate need now – I encourage you to do what you can in your own way to help, whether it is to call a friend or contribute to your local food bank. If you are in need, please reach out to others for help – we are all in this together.

If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Thank you for walking with me in the garden. I wish each of you gentle silence and peace of heart.

Listen to silence. It has so much to say. ~Rumi

All photographs and text ©2020 Lynn Emberg Purse, except where noted.


Be Neither Silent Nor Still

winter skyIn the past few weeks, the silent landscape of winter has shifted into a vibrant chorus of bird song as the winged ones return and begin to court and nest. The spring equinox has passed, and though winter lingers on, each day grows longer and brighter – light is returning to the world. A time of renewal in the earth also seems the time to renew one’s spirit.

Ten years ago, I composed a set of pieces for the 125th Anniversary of Duquesne University entitled “The Trees of Righteousness.” The text, taken from the biblical sources of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms, explored the sense of being called to a purpose in the world.  The second movement, “Be Neither Silent Nor Still” always comes to my mind during Lent and Holy Week.  It is about the dark night of the soul, about searching for light as well as a cry for compassion and justice. As we emerge from the long dark nights of winter, the song reminds me that this is a universal experience of being a human on the earth, regardless of one’s religious or spiritual beliefs. It was written for my dear friend and colleague Guenko Guechev, whose magnificent voice you will hear on the recording. May you find renewal of the heart, mind and spirit this spring.   

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Be Neither Silent Nor Still from “The Trees of Righteousness” music by Lynn Emberg Purse,  @2003

O God, be neither silent nor still.

I look for the light but all is darkness
I look for the light, the light of dawn, but I walk in shadow.
I reach out like a blind man, a blind man along a wall
waiting for justice, for justice, and there is none.

O God, be neither silent nor still.

The wretched and the poor look for water and find none.
Their tongues are parched with thirst, parched with thirst.
Will you not turn the wilderness into pools
and dry land into springs of water?

O God, be neither silent nor still.

Give me a new heart, give me a new heart and
put a new spirit within me.
Take the heart of stone from my body, the heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh, of flesh,
a new spirit within me.

O God, be neither silent nor still,

Quiet, not Silence

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all ~ Emily Dickinson

moonThe silence this morning was deafening. The dark days are upon us in the northern hemisphere – each bright day shrinking, each dark night expanding, until the solstice shifts the tide in a few weeks.  A full moon and its subsequent reduced appearances have awakened me each morning long before daylight.  I admit to a modest glass of chardonnay sipped yesterday morning at 5:30 A.M. – the moon was so bright that I couldn’t sleep, it seemed more like night than morning, and so I paid homage to its lingering light. Balanced on the edge of night and morning on an unseasonably warm night, the moon and stars ruled the pre-dawn sky.

This morning, however, the moon had already set and I stood in the dark before dawn, with no dawn “chorus.” A moist and silent cloud of dampness filled the air – no birds, no insects, no creature noises filled the void, only a distant hum of traffic.  Who is up and about at 5:30 A.M.?  And so a damp cloak of emptiness became a shroud of sorts.  I can do without sunlight but can I live in a silent world?  Isn’t that the real nightmare of the imagined apocalypse? Not the visual destruction but the absence of sound?

Now, at noon, a dozen birds have added their voices to the world.  Bluejays, cardinals, sparrows, woodpeckers, and hawks all spin their songs around me as Angel and I venture into the woods.  It is a comfort, to know that stillness and silence may dwell within but the murmur of the natural world goes on, each voice in its perfect place in nature’s orchestra. I sigh and something inside, a tight kernel of fear and tension, relaxes and dissolves.  I take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet murmur of nature’s world around me, every sound, every voice, every song present and accounted for.  All is well, and if it is quiet, that is the way of things in nature in this season.

Why most birds don’t sing in winter

And birds singing in winter.