Nature’s Evensong

Nature’s Evensong

The secret of a contented life is to learn how to end the day well. Nature’s ‘Evensong’ has some lessons for us.

Earlier in the day I’ve been entertained and amused by a flock of young blue tits following the parent excitedly from bush to bush in our front garden – an exceptionally late sight. Blue tits normally have only one brood in spring.  Has anyone seen anything similar recently? But now, the sun is setting and as dusk approaches, a measure of stillness descends as the ever noisy traffic lessens. What welcome relief! Similarly the winds of the day die down as they so often do after sunset.

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free‘     (Wordsworth).

Clearly it’s time to unwind!

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the shadows lengthen and the evening comes. The busy world is hushed… and our work done..’

Now in the garden all is quiet, at least nearly so. Earlier in the autumn there might have been a rustling hedgehog as it scurries across the lawn on its hunt for earthworms. Now a late robin sings his autumnal evensong from a nearby bush, encouraged into song by the lights from the house perhaps? One of the delights of spring time is to hear a late singing song thrush, serenading us from the top of a garden tree as the darkness falls.  But now, it’s only a lone blackbird giving an alarm cry as it’s disturbed by something in the hedge. Then there’s a slight rustling as it and other birds settle back into their roosts.

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The temperature is falling rapidly. The church tower clock strikes the hour, the sound magnified by the still air. A dog barks briefly in the village somewhere.  Once a week there’s evening bell practice at the church as the sound rings out over the village roof tops. But tonight, the bells are still. If it wasn’t so cold I’d like to stay out here for a while. Hopefully those baby blue tits are safe and warm somewhere for the night. There’s a welcome calm stillness as the working day comes peacefully to an end.

It’s interesting to note that in Jewish reckoning the day begins at sundown. This dates back to Genesis 1 where we read of the 7 days of Creation that evening comes first:

‘the evening and the morning – were the first..second…third..day’.

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Pauline Eccles’ ‘A Parliament of Rooks’ (CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

.. just now it was only dusk, and already the interior of the wood is impenetrable to the glance. There rises a loud though distant clamour of rooks and (jack) daws, who have restlessly moved in their roost-trees. Darkness is almost on them, yet they cannot quite settle. The cawing and dawing rises to a pitch, and then declines; the wood is silent, and it is suddenly night.

Richard Jefferies   From ‘A Sussex wood in January’

The rooks settle after their day and so should we. The traditional church services of Evening Prayer (Evensong)  and Compline (Night Prayers) remind us to end the day on the right note— making sure we rest at peace with God and our neighbours. The Bible’s wise advice ‘don’t let the sun go down on your wrath‘ needs to be heeded if we want a relaxed sleep. Internal ‘agro’ does not make for a restful night!

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The Blessing of Sleep

How good that life comes in ‘day sized’ portions giving us time to lay cares aside and welcome the blessing of sleep and rest. Perhaps, after what may have been a difficult day, the relief of night arrives bringing rest and the promise of  a fresh new start tomorrow morning. How often a new day brings answers to yesterday’s problems, sees us finding objects that were lost, remembering things we had forgotten and discovering the inspiration that we seemed to lack the day before.

Wordsworth, after some nights when sleep has not come, (despite counting many sheep!) reaffirms the value of this great blessing:

Without Thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, blesséd barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

From his poem ‘To Sleep’

 

Thank you for joining me. I hope you end your day well too, with ‘fresh thoughts and joyous health’ for tomorrow.

 

Next Time we look at Gilbert White’s famous ‘Natural History of Selborne’

 

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9 thoughts on “Nature’s Evensong

  1. I love these thoughts of ending the day well being a key to a contented life, and the fact that life being divided into day-sized chunks gives us the opportunity to rest and recover. So true though not often expressed in this lovely way Richard. I heard church bells ringing the other day for what must have been a wedding and was struck by the fact that it’s not a sound I hear often at all these days. Though I’m not a church-goer, there is a joy in the sound of church bells.

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    1. Thank you Andrea. The simple things of life like sleep and rest are worth celebrating. I always wanted to live within the sound of church bells and now I do. Happily ours are still very much part of our village community. Bells are for celebration, something we all need in this sad and weary world. I’m all for them. Bell ringing (including hand bells) is great fun too.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this peaceful post, Richard. We had a fairly late nest of goldfinches in the garden but certainly not as late as your bluetits! I hope they all survive the cold weather this winter. I love the Richard Jeffries quote!

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    1. Thank you Clare. Good to hear about your goldfinches. I have them here regularly throughout the winter too. Richard Jefferies was an admirer of Gilbert White. They were both great naturalists and I love their rather quaint yet so observant writing.

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      1. I have read a couple of quotes and excerpts from Jefferies’ writing which got me interested in him and managed to obtain a copy of ‘Bevis’ in a second-hand bookshop a couple of weeks ago. Haven’t read it yet but it looks good. I collect children’s books! I have read ‘The Natural History of Selbourne’. Such a lovely book!

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      2. I have only read Jefferies nature writings so I don’t know ‘Bevis’. Have you looked at the ‘Richard Jefferies Society’ website? It has many of his works to download and read free online. Do have a look if you’ve not found it before. Also, on the ‘Home page’ is a link to this very moving short film ‘Jefferies Land’— https://vimeo.com/5829812. Do watch it and let us know how you get on.

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