Sunday, January 17, 2010

Twilight: Dusk

(noun) The soft, diffused light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, either from daybreak to sunrise or, more commonly, from sunset to nightfall.

Twilight is when the sun has gone below the horizon and the sky is still bright blue, but dusk is the beginning of darkness versus the end of light.

Some people crave the sunrise to start their day, others the daylight to keep them cheerful, some adore the sunset for the blush of colors, others are twilight seekers when the sky is still bright by the sun is no longer direct, yet others are the fans of dusk when the night begins. I am one of those lovers of the latter.

Twilight to me is the relief of the colors and the glory and the intensity of sunset. The sky is bright and clear, and yet there is no sun to warm my face. To me, it is the first comfort after hours on end of intense bright light. I can still do my chores and finish up my tasks before I retreat to the indoors and there is still some residual warming to keep me comfortable.

The dusk, however, is a time for nocturnes like myself to wander the outdoors free of the squinting pain of daylight. It is the noble time when lack of light leads the world to turn black and white with no discernible color about it. I can see into the bushes and between the trees, but the murky absence of light creates layers of shadow that can hold great mystery. It is only in the dusk and the true end to the day, that my mind fills with the images of what I did that day that was productive or nonproductive, silly or serious. Then, my mind places those occurrences within the framework of a week, a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime. It is the reminder of the end of a day that has me not yet hoping for the next day and what will be, but concentrating on the reality of what was.

When people say “he was in the twilight of his life,” it does represent a place on the timeline of life, but it also represents a thinking process, a time for review. This is probably why I adore the autumn season so much. It’s not just Halloween and bright colors, but everything is preparing to go into stasis and that moment at the winter solstice that I so love when I am relieved of my duties to enjoy a self-imposed stasis and protection from the heat, the sun, and all the “tasks” that must be done in the warmer clime. The preparation for hibernation and retreat to the indoors is a comforting gift that brings one back to the family and the hearth, renewing one's energy for the next summer to come and rewarding one with a moment of peace and being rather than doing.

In the movie “Reign of Fire,” the heroes discover that, with the waning sunlight at twilight, the dragons’ keen vision is murky and they are unable to detect the humans. The heroes used this one flaw in their sight to protect themselves. Twilight has always held a fascination for me because it was that time of the day when the female nurse screamed in the summertime near our creek at Aspen Grove. Lots of us had a theory that she had drowned herself during the Civil War at twilight on a summer night. It seemed terribly appropriate that at she would not kill herself at the birth of a new day and new beginnings when the slate is cleaned anew, but would do so at the death of a day and all the memories it carries of her lover's demise. There is a great deal of angst about the end of a day and all that didn't get done, one more calendar day on your aging chart, one more missed opportunity. For many, this is a sad time filled with regret and self-condemnation.

The other side of twilight into dusk is that things come to life. Things that are vastly different than ourselves. Things that carry the dark with them like a blackened fancy cloak. Zombies, vampires, werewolves use the coming darkness to transformation. When we were children, that was when the monsters came out from under our beds. It is the time when the dead walk the halls in ghostly form. The only true mysteries left in life are held in the darkness of the night. Twilight and dusk are the anticipation of the stark real world under the exposing sunlight changing to the world where fairies and vampires, ghosts and closet monsters still exist.

Try today to sit outside or view it outside your window(depending on your climate) with the lights off. Watch the world go from a neon sunset to an intensely blue sky to the drawing curtain of darkness and observe what your mind and body feel. Any lingering sadness the day is over? Any hibernating tendencies to curl up and escape? Or any animal-like hunger to prowl and join the darkness of the out of doors and become one with the nighttime?


  1. i am a sunshine hater. i just want to hide in a closet when it is sunny. my sister is the same way. i love gloom, fog, snow and darkness. i should be a mushroom farmer!

  2. Oh yes! I'm in total agreement. I once said, I wanted to own a huge grove of nut trees in Oregon and call it "Autumnforest's Nut Farm" and have t-shirts that say "I picked my nuts at Autumnforest's Nut Farm" and then have schools come by on buses and walk truffle-snuffling pigs on leashes to hunt down the truffles. Grow mushrooms in the basement. Yeah, I'd like mildew to grow on me. Wow, you're first person I've ever met who loved rain/fog/dark.

  3. In France, specifically in the Morvan, the French have a saying for dusk. They call it the time "between the wolf and the dog." I used this concept in my first novel, Beneath the Morvan Moon, which was about werewolves. I also used that saying as a short story title (which will be published by Flashes in the Dark for their lycanthropy contest on 1/21.) Dusk/twilight is a fascinating subject to me. And something I learned caring for my mom in her dying days was that often those afflicted with Alzheimer's/dementia, like my mom was, are HYPER-SENSITIVE to twilight. She grew absolutely panicked, agitated, inconsolable some days when she saw it was the time between the wolf and the dog. Which sucked, because it's my favorite time to walk Murph and be introspective, as you suggested others should try. (Oh, and your Nut Farm idea...HAHAHAHAHA! Maybe that should be one of your Etsy things too. That is HYSTERICAL!)

  4. Courtney;
    They call that "Sundowner syndrome" in hospitals when the elderly get agitated in the nighttime. Yes, we are lunar-driven creatures as much as we are sun-driven.

  5. are right. That is what they call it. I keep forgetting what you do and if I use certain terms you will know without me having to give long, drawn out explanations! Hers would start as early as 4 though...sun didn't start to set until 6:30 or 7. Those were the REALLY bad days. Not fun. Wish they'd find a cure for that. I don't want to be scared during that time if I live long enough to get dementia too!

  6. Courtney;
    You're a young pup and I know from typing a lot of neurology reports, that they are so very close to being able to deal with Alzheimers. Your mom will likely be the last in the lineage to deal with that. You are such a brave person to have to deal with that. It's very heartbreaking to have your own cognition intact while a loved one is losing hers. It kind of makes you realize what's truly important is the feeling you give each other more than the memories you contain. I'm certain that even though she may have no access to her memories, she could feel that she was loved and that's really all that counts when we're heading into midnight--that we were loved and we loved back. My brother, who was an alcoholic, had a similar thing. My husband used to comment "he gets very weird after dark." It's a form of the same issue. More than likely the lack of sunlight is affecting the chemistry of the brain and melatonin levels. I like to think we all become a little dark and strange at night... (mwa ha ha ha)

  7. autumnforest, i've alw+ys been a night person...but when i was working an hour away from here, and had to get up & on the road at 6:30 am, i started to really like sunrise, & the rest of the morning...but as soon as i got this ms & had to 'not sork' anymore...i've reverted back to a night person!

  8. Libby;
    There's something about the world going to sleep and having the night to yourself that brings out the artist and the craftsperson, the writer and the thinker in everyone. I like the term "prowl," it suits the condition. Perhaps I should write another post about night people... (you always inspire me with new ideas)

  9. Before we moved here, I had the most magical of gardens. I loved being there. I would rush home from work, have dinner, do the dishes and usually it was dusk when I stepped outside. Oh, what wonder and peace. I had stepped into the Otherworld.

  10. Mary;
    I find the only time I can find any relief here is when it's getting dark. The desert has a freakin' magnifying glass between the sun and the dry hard earth. I feel like I'm in a petrie dish being baked most of the time and have truly come to hate sunshine. I wear sunglasses on overcast days! The dusk to me signifies a time I can finally come out and be outdoors without burning and crisping my skin and squinting even with dark sunglasses on. I walk around and inspect my garden, do my watering so it doesn't dry up in the sunshine, and when it gets dark--I go for a nice moonlight swim. I've learned over my lifetime that every bad thing has a good thing. I look for that good thing. Being in the desert sucks big-time. It's extremely depressing for a person like me who loves lush greenery and rain, but I find the little things I can have here that I can't have elsewhere and that one thing is about 8 months of the year, I can have a moonlight skinnydip before bedtime and it not only helps me sleep but makes me feel like a creature of the night. It reconnected me with the sky that I was thinking was my enemy in the daytime. So, yeah, I love the dusk--it's my time to begin the part of the day that satisfies my soul. It sounds like you have that connection with nature too. Keeps us human and also keeps us tied to our animal side. (mwa ha ha ha)