Now Is the Cool of the Day
About the Song
Ritchie's powerful song is about God's calling to humans to care for the earth and work for freedom and justice. Her lyrics draw on several Biblical passages in a fascinating way. The chorus talks about God walking in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day - from Genesis 3:8.
Genesis 2:15 suggests that God wanted or hoped that humans would care for the creation. Some of the other early Genesis passages, however, (e.g.1:28-30) have often been used to reinforce the idea that humans are above the rest of creation and should feel free to exploit creation for their own purposes - even if this leads to animals becoming extinct and lands, air, and waters being ruined.
Ritchie, however, also draws on John 21:15-17 where the risen Jesus has a conversation with Peter. He asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Jesus tells him that if Peter loves him, he must "feed his sheep".
By juxtaposing these passages Ritchie is communicating the idea that humanity (not just the Pope as Peter's "successor" or religious leaders) have a responsibility to care for the grasses, for the waters, and ultimately also for each other.
Some notable recordings:
- Ritchie first released the song as the final track on her 1977 "None But One" LP on Sire Records.
- Annie Patterson on her 2006 "Meet Me by the Moonlight" album (available on this website)
- Kathea Mattea on her 2012 "Calling Me Home" album on Sugar Hill Records
- Coope, Boyes & Simpson on their 2016 "As If" album.
- Tim Ericksen's recording is from the 2017 documentary film Behold the Earth, about Christian creation activists working to transform the way the church relates to the earth.
At least two choral arrangements (one by "Pickow" and another by John Ratledge) have been made of Ritchie's song. Some of those below credit this incorrectly as a "traditional American folk song" arranged by John Ratledge in 1996. If you encounter a school or church choir doing this please tell them that this is an original composition by Jean Ritchie and not a traditional song.