Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star. Lucy Maud Montgomery
Twilight, again. Another ending. No matter how perfect the day is, it always has to end. Stephenie Meyer
At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets. Oscar Wilde
Twilight is about getting older and relationships–not about a murder mystery. It’s about love when you reach a certain age; nothing is in primary colors. Robert Benton
Twilight is like death; the dark portal of night comes upon us, to open again in the glorious morning of immortality. James Ellis
This month the church writing group’s subject is a specific time of day, such as noon, 3:39 pm or twilight. I’ve been thinking about it, but I can’t write what I feel, the way it feels. Perhaps I can share my thoughts and you’ll see the problem in the rising of a cold morning sun.
Twilight, there’s a poem in there. It troubles me. It confuses me. In the dim light I can’t see the metaphor. Oh, I can describe the word, the various meanings, it’s etymology, it’s use over time and list the endless quotes of greater minds. My research led to facts, mathematics, and day ending images, but it seems incomplete. There’s no color, no smell, nothing for my hand to touch – just this feeling that there is something more.
Twilight, the scattering of sunlight in the upper atmosphere when the sun is below the horizon. That time when the heat of the day eases and tired feet take off socks to let in the renewing air. Winter twilight brings the lighting of fires, heating of ovens and pulling on of sweaters, robes and blankets. Soup is heated on the stove and hands are warmed around cups of tea. Curtains drawn to shut out the cold and gloom.
Scientists define three kinds of twilight. Civil, nautical and astronomical all in six degree increments. Civil twilight is when the geometric center of the sun is between zero and six degrees below the horizon. Terrestrial objects can still be discerned and artificial lighting isn’t needed. The planets and brighter stars can be seen above the visible horizon. Children are called back into the house, cars turn on headlights and dinner aromas start filling the kitchen.
Nautical twilight belongs to sailors and navigators. Starting at six degrees and ending at twelve degrees below the horizon, when sailors and ship’s captains can make reliable readings of well known stars against the horizon. Telling them where they are and where they are going. Artificial lights are needed to find the hatchway leading below deck – to the mess deck where the next watch is putting down forks of a meal before putting arms through jackets or woolen sweaters.
Astronomers wait for the end of astronomical twilight before opening the doors of their telescopes and locking in the coordinates of a distant dot of light. They wait between 12 and 18 degrees below the horizon before turning the key that powers the motors, computers, and cameras of their science. The hiker on the edge of an alpine meadow throws a log on the fire and turns an eye to the heavens to breathe in the wonders of the milky way and marvel at the billion years old light falling on their retinas where the brain turns the image into the electrical pulses of amazement.
We speak of twilight years. The slow decline of adult strength into the weakness that leads to the grave. They talk of that twilight zone of confusion and the failing of once powerful institutions.
I watch the light on the hills fade from bright noon to full dark and call that time between twilight. That time when I move to turn on lights while I can still see the light switch. That time when windows darken and I pull curtains to keep the light in and the dark out.
But few talk about the other twilight. That time between the darkness of a soul until the full light of day. Between the ringing of a alarm clock and the turning off of the lights. Morning twilight. First the scientist closes the doors of the telescope, the sailor watches the sky lighten and confirms the ship’s course as the helm is turned towards a morning star. We eat breakfast, put on clothes and breathe in the strength of a rising sun.
We never use that metaphor – twilight as building from weakness to strength. The twilight of childhood ending in adulthood.
It feels incomplete to talk about twilight only as decline when the world has two periods a day when scatter light rules our lives. We talk of life ending in death, but doesn’t death end in life? Night comes before day and day before night.
Or am I missing the point? Not understanding the allusion, using the wrong simile or misquoting the idiom.
Somewhere in all I’ve though there is a poem that casts twilight as the pause between the endless cycles of infinite time. It’s somewhere between zero and eighteen degrees.