Twilight and dawn

The "dreaming spires" of Oxford, as seen at dusk in September 2005

The “dreaming spires” of Oxford, as seen at dusk in September 2005

“…day and night meet fleetingly at twilight and dawn…their merging sometimes affords the beholder the most enchanted moments of all the twenty-four hours.”Mary Balogh

I have always thought there’s something enchanting about dusk, when the light is waning and paints everything in muted but clearly visible colors.  Dawn is just as magical, although I don’t watch it nearly as often.  I always welcome the time of year when the days lengthen, and I shift my walks to the evening hours, savoring the calm that seems to settle over everything.  Even the sounds I often hear as I walk the familiar streets of my neighborhood– the birds, crickets, a lawn mower running somewhere– seem to announce that all will soon be at rest.

As the porch lights begin to come on and windows are lit from within, the heat of the day subsides and the warmth radiating from the asphalt is a pleasant sensation, not punishing as it would be in the afternoon sun.  Neighbors come out to walk their dogs, water their flowers or just sit on decks and patios, taking in the peace.  We greet each other in passing, and the sharing of the day’s end creates a sense of community; we all belong here.  The prospect of a quiet hour or two of reading, a warm bath and a night of slumber draws me home as I end my walk, but often I will stop and pull a weed or two in my flower bed before going inside, reluctant to leave the enchantment until night pulls the shade completely down.

Such evenings communicate the meaning of the word “respite” in sensory details that a verbal definition could never capture.  I wish you many days that end with serenity and gratitude!

This post was originally published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

11 Comments

  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    As I write this, it’s dawn here, and the word picture you paint of the peace and loveliness of dusk carries me to a place of calm and gentleness to begin my day. And I love the way your writing helps me to be even more appreciative of the serenity of my evening walks.

    How wonderful it must have been for you to be at Oxford and come upon that view that makes it look like a fairyland castle! I’m glad you had your camera along for that walk so you could share what you saw there.

    Your photos and writings over the years have taken me to so many places and reflections that I enjoy. Have you ever considered making a collection of them into a book?

    • Judy, of all the evenings in my memory that I’d love to re-visit, that twilight stroll in Oxford is definitely among them. I too am so glad I got photos. It’s surprising how much is forgotten without some sort of reminder. I am discovering this as I go through old memorabilia, and come across a letter or card or ticket stub of something that was very significant at the time, but has vanished in my conscious memory over the ensuing years.

      Thanks so much for your kind words about my photos and writing. I did create a little digital book for my parents, with some of my photos, poems and quotes. I have the hardcover that I took with me after they died, but I also have a .pdf file of it that I could send you if you’d like to see it. I wish there was some easy way to take the entire blog archive and create a book from it, comments and all. But the number of pages would be prohibitive, as there are over 1100 unique posts and the comments often run several pages long. I suppose some things are destined to live only online.

      • Judy from Pennsylvania

        If you ever decide to publish a collection of some of your favorite blog entries, I’d buy the book! Hmm, if I might be so forward as to suggest a title, perhaps it would be “Reflections”? In the meantime, yes, I’d love it if you’d share that file of the hardcover you made for your parents. They must have loved receiving it from you. Words and pictures on paper are part of the physical world and somehow seem more real, more substantial than in digital form.

        • Judy, I sent you a link to the .pdf file. Turns out it was too large to put in an email, which I should have known.

          I agree that having a physical book is still important. We tend to think of digital records as being the safest, but having lost all three of the massive photo files I had saved and backed up to two different sources– all three crashed and/or were unreadable, wasting the hours I spent digitizing everything– I have learned to be wary of thinking anything is “safely” stored. Plus, I spent hours upon hours (with a slower connection a decade ago) uploading all my photos to the cloud, only to have the storage company go bankrupt, and all my effort wasted as the files disappeared from online. I still save things digitally, but have no illusions that they are therefore rendered permanent. Future methods may not use current formats. There’s a reason the good old-fashioned book has lasted for centuries.

          Another disadvantage to digitization that many people may not consider, is how easily digital formats can be altered and thus rendered not true to what the author/artist intended. It’s a form of censorship that is too often practiced, sometimes with the best of intentions, when future generations think themselves more evolved and enlightened, and thus long to sweep away anything deemed insensitive or offensive by current standards…which standards themselves will one day seem outdated, too. This is ultimately a very dangerous possibility, as not all attempts to re-write history are benign or benevolent.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    Thank you for this encouraging perspective. As you know, I prefer the dawn.
    As I look at the enchanting photo you’ve attached, I remember my college days (no sea of spires at Michigan Tech, but still some good learning going on there each day), when dusk on Sunday through Thursday usually meant supper and studying, and weekend dusk often meant socializing.
    Now as dusk approaches, I feel more anxious, as though I haven’t accomplished enough in the day, and the night gallops toward me to snatch away time. Lately I’ve been sewing face masks or crocheting in the evenings, which helps a bit. Also, days are becoming longer now, which means I can actually accomplish more during the “day.”
    I’ve heard that some elderly persons become disoriented at night, and I can easily envision myself as one of them. It might be good for me to seek an intention for my coming evenings, which could provide me with a better evening experience. Choir rehearsal, for example, typically happen in the evening and challenge the type of anxiety that nightfall may otherwise bring.
    Sorry, rambling. Anyway, evenings are encouraging to think about in this “light” and so I’m thankful for your blog today.

    • Susan, I identify with what you say about feeling anxious in the evening, fearing that one hasn’t done enough during the day. Various approaches have helped me with this– schedules and to-do lists that give me a visual reassurance that I’ve done what I needed to do. But these can backfire if unexpected, urgent things crop up through the day to distract me, and I’m not able to complete the schedule or list. Then they just add to the frustration and fear of getting overwhelmed with undone tasks. I don’t experience any disorientation at night– not yet, anyway– but I do think that schedules and routines are very beneficial for everyone, during all the waking hours. Structuring one’s own time is a challenge for almost everyone. I’m so glad you liked today’s post!

  3. Chris

    Julia,

    I agree with others; the prose of this entry is charming and poetic! Very nice.

    Whenever I hear the word “twilight”, I am immediately drawn to GEN MacArthur’s farewell to the corps of cadets, in May, 1962. His speech was organized around the sacred motto of West Point: Duty, Honor, Country. It is arguably one of the best speeches ever. MacArthur’s personal reflection on his life at the end of the speech is analagous to that time of day, twilight.

    “The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country. Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps. I bid you farewell.”

    • Wow, I had never read this excerpt from MacArthur’s speech, although his trademark “Duty, Honor, Country” motto was a favorite of one of my co-workers when I was in high school, and I remember hearing it from him. Thanks for taking the time to share the quote with us. It’s interesting to think that a career military officer wrote something so poetic and evocative. Generally speaking, those are not traits I associate with the disciplined regimentation of a military career. MacArthur must have been an interesting person. But then, almost everyone is interesting in one way or another, aren’t they?

      • Chris

        You should read the entire speech sometime. MacArthur was brilliant, if not eccentric as well. I’m sure I’ve forgotten most of what I learned in military history, but we studied him thoroughly at school. It’s said that he was the most influential soldier of the 20th century.
        The motto is not his. Duty, Honor, Country is the motto of West Point, about which he spoke.
        I loved the opening remark of his speech. It’s so funny; yet, it’s so MacArthur. Here it is:
        “General Westmoreland, General Groves, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” and when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful place: have you ever been there before?” [Laughter]c”

        Wow! Hard to believe one would not know so little about McArthur. On the other hand, today only a very small percentage of Americans ever have first hand knowledge of or contact with the military.

        “MacArthur was age 82 when he delivered his farewell address to the cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he had set academic records as a student that remain unsurpassed, and where as superintendent in the early 1920s he brought the curriculum of the revered institution into the 20th century. It was the last public act of a military career that spanned more than a half-century; that witnessed triumphs and tragedies, glory and disgrace.”
        😊

        • Chris, I wish David McCullough would write a biography of MacArthur. He does sound fascinating. I think whoever crosses the line between superior intellect and true brilliance will always be eccentric. I think close examination of historical figures who were undoubtedly brilliant (Einstein, Jefferson, Mozart, whoever) bears me out on that. What is eccentricity, after all, but something far out of the norm? And that, too, is true of brilliance.

          Yes, it’s a shame that the military has become so detached from society at large. That’s one disadvantage to all-volunteer armed forces– the most fortunate people (the top 80-90% of the population) can delegate the nasty business of harsh training, regimented discipline, and outright violence to others, and live almost completely unaware of all the regions of the world where such violence is happening. I’ve noticed, to my own dismay, that many of the people who think themselves most patriotic have never had a child, spouse or family member serving in the armed forces, and would actually go to great lengths to avoid having anyone in the family serve. That’s a whole other topic on which I should not get started, as it will escalate into a rant. Suffice it to say that I believe wars would become rarer if there was a universal military draft for men and women younger than, say, 30 years old. It’s too easy to tolerate the hell that is warfare, if you never are directly affected by it.

  4. Chris

    I am with you on that; that whole other topic. My thoughts would also evolve into a rant!!
    For another time. 😊

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