Singing up the sun

I was out in the woods during yesterday’s solar eclipse. Rather than having my attention on the sun, I was mostly considering the light, and the way it changed. From the beginning of the eclipse, the light shift was noticeable, a very different kind of light to the effect you get when clouds come between us and the sun. But then, light passes through cloud.

In the woods, all the small birds were singing, and as the sky darkened, the singing grew louder and more intense. Then, as the light returned, the singing eased off again until we had the normal soundscape for that wood. I walk there regularly, I know what it otherwise sounds like at this time of year. I also know that the birds do not sing out like that when dark clouds cover the sun. They have songs- the blackbirds especially – for when they think it’s going to rain and for when the weather improves, but again that was distinctly different from what happened yesterday. Only the blackbirds sing the sun down, and they don’t do so much of that in the winter.

I met several dog walkers in the wood who remembered that, at the last eclipse, the birds had also sung, but stories shared online included tales of places where the birds went quiet in response to the eclipse.

Solar eclipses are far enough apart that there must be many generations of small birds between one and the next. For me it raised all kinds of interesting thoughts about how other life forms experience and understand things. Every day, the birds sing the sun up. In winter, is can be a bit of a token gesture, just a few voices and very brief, but someone will sing. During the summer, it’s a more involved and exuberant process. We humans have traditions of singing and dancing the sun up at key points of the year. Are we doing something similar? Might the same urge underpin both, or might we have learned to do this from the birds?

And because it appeals to my sense of the mythic, let me also offer you the irrational possibility that perhaps the return of the light does depend on the bird song. Perhaps if they stop singing, the whole thing falls apart.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Singing up the sun

  • angharadlois

    That mythic possibility is very powerful. When the birds stop singing, the whole thing – at least as we know it – *will* fall apart. I’ve been increasingly letting go of the linear narratives of cause and effect in favour of embracing connections. It doesn’t mean that the cause and effect aren’t real or important; just that there are other important ways of experiencing things.

  • paulaacton

    Here the smaller birds seemed to be more doing alarm calls than singing before falling quiet as the eclipse reached it peak but the strangest thing is we have an owl that lives in the woods nearby which you occasionally hear in the evening when out with the dogs but it was calling during the eclipse. My two dogs had totally different reactions the younger one got incredibly excited sniffing around but the older dog (by old I mean almost 16) became very quiet and still and would not leave my side.

  • crychydd

    “perhaps the return of the light does depend on the bird song” – I felt quite moved by that thought. The light during the eclipse has a quality quite unlike twilight and it seemed such that mythic suggestions like this make perfect sense.

  • Turtle

    Where I live it was snowing all day on the equinox. Very interesting first day of spring to say the least. 🙂 No birdsong for us that day, but then there was also no visible eclipse (it wouldn’t have been visible for us, even with clear skies). I like your thought though, about the correlation; a lovely poetic idea that highlights our interdependence.

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