The heavens declare the glory of God

A broken shell on the woodland floor

A broken shell on the woodland floor

Among other psalms directed for use this morning is Psalm 19, which begins:


The heavens declare the glory of God, 

and the firmament shows his handiwork. 

One day tells its tale to another, 

and one night imparts knowledge to another.  

Although they have no words or language, 

their sound has gone out into all lands, 

and their voices to the ends of the world.


Walking yesterday afternoon, a woman who waited for us in a gap on the path, expressed the view, often heard in these days, of what glory there is about us.  There was no need to say more, as from where we stood, the cowslips and orchids at our feet, the hills around us and the blue sky above, indeed, every sight and sound declared the glory of God.


At home, the apple blossom is upon the old rectory bramley tree, while just a few of last September’s stored apples remain on the wooden shelves in the garage.  They are still edible, and sweet with sitting the winter long.  The tree almost certainly pre-dates the house, and in its shade many a story has been told and thought pondered.  It gives good value for the space it takes, and its roots spread wide in search of the water and anchorage it needs.


Such a sign of nature’s permanence in a tree that outlives us, is balanced by the fragile egg in the nest or swiftly fading flower, as early spring moves to late spring and onward to summer.  The daffodils and narcissi are finished, all but the late and fragrant cheerfulness, that has managed in previous years to slip into Easter decorations when they have been needed late April, in one of those years when it seemed Easter would never come.  But here we are with the festival passed, and a strange year when holidays are over but there is little outward change. It is all very odd.


The birds are still nesting though, and carrying on as if nothing were amiss.  Guillemots and razorbills, shags and herring gulls, with fulmars wheeling above, are nesting all along the cliff ledges from the Tilly Whim Caves to Durlston Head; the small birds whirring busily across the sea, intent on feeding their young.  Further out a dozen gannets fly in formation, no doubt also in search of food.


Lying in a woodland path a piece of shell of the egg of a song thrush presents its speckled blue reminder of new birth, and the filling of the dappled-lit undergrowth of a forest floor with the lush growth of spring; dogs mercury, wild garlic, bluebell and wood anemone.  From hidden in the thickets comes the sound of birdsong, and above, the pale green of opening beech leaves contrasts so perfectly with the deep cobalt of bluebell and the cloudless sky.


In a few brief weeks it will have died back, and the mystery which we know of as spring in England will have passed for another year, but, thank God, we have it for now, its very transient beauty filling our hearts with joy; as we treasure every glimpse, and, though there is neither word nor language, we hold within receptive ears every note of song.


John Mann