Write 28 Days: Have Heaven ~ Day 11 :: The Gloaming

HaveHeavenWrite28DayFeb2019Welcome to day 11 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted

We’re in the midst of a dozen days or so playing with some of the lyrics and elements in the song “China Roses.” It’s packed with interesting plants and allusions, and since I don’t know what was in lyricist Roma Ryan’s head when she concocted this magic, I feel I can construe the lines as I wish (“who can say the way it should be?,” after all).

Yesterday, the topic was a thousand nights and one night. Today’s topic is the end of evening: hue of indigo and blue.

As I mentioned at the start, taken as a whole, the lyrics span time from dawn through day to evening, night, and moon rise, evoking an exotic Eden, mythic and romantic, scented with heady fragrances, planted with unusual specimens made lush by rain and river, under a swirl of celestial motion. Explicit in the words and implicit in the connotations, histories, and mythologies are repetitions and reverberations of these conjurings, a journey through time in a day, time in an eon, eternity in the cosmos.

Here again are the lyrics:

China Roses

Who can tell me if we have heaven,
Who can say the way it should be;
Moonlight holly, the Sappho Comet,
Angel’s tears below a tree.

You talk of the break of morning
As you view the new aurora,
Cloud in crimson, the key of heaven,
One love carved in acajou.

One told me of China Roses,
One a thousand nights and one night,
Earth’s last picture, the end of evening:
Hue of indigo and blue.

A new moon leads me to
Woods of dreams and I follow.
A new world waits for me;
My dream, my way.

I know that if I have heaven
There is nothing to desire.
Rain and river, a world of wonder
May be paradise to me.


the end of evening: hue of indigo and blue:

Footbridge Beach, ocean, moon, Ogunquit, Maine at 8 p.m. on 27 Aug. 2012

“I sit up in the dark drenched in longing. / I am carrying over a thousand names for blue that I didn’t have at dusk.”  — Joy Harjo, from “The First Day Without a Mother”

Humans have lots of words and definitions for specific periods of time. In just one day, for instance, there is day, night, midnight, noon, sunrise, sunset, dawn, dusk, and twilight — occurring both a.m. and p.m, when there is light outside but the Sun is below the horizon — which culminates in dawn in the morning and dusk in the evening, and there are three versions of each of the daily twilights: civil (the brightest form of twilight), nautical, and astronomical (the darkest form), each defined by how many degrees the sun is below the horizon.

An example:
The 24 hours of 9 Feb. 2019 where I live in New Hampshire is broken into these segments (not including midnight and noon):

Night: 12:00 a.m. to 5:16 a.m
Astronomical dawn: 5:16 a.m., when the Sun’s center is 18 degrees below the horizon
Astronomical twilight (dawnish) is 5:16 am to 5:49 am
Nautical dawn: 5:49 a.m., when the Sun’s center is 12 degrees below the horizon
Nautical twilight (dawnish) is 5:49 a.m. to 6:22 a.m.
Civil dawn: 6:22 a.m., when the Sun’s center is 6 degrees below the horizon
Civil twilight (dawnish) 6:22 a.m. to 6:52 a.m.
Sunrise 6:52 a.m.
Daylight: 6:52 a.m. to 5:08 p.m.
Sunset: 5:08
Civil dusk: 5:08 p.m., when the Sun’s center is 6 degrees below the horizon.
Civil twilight (duskish) 5:08 p.m. to 5:38 p.m.
Nautical dusk: 5:38 p.m., when the Sun’s center is 12 degrees below the horizon
Nautical twilight (duskish) 5:38 p.m to 6:12 p.m.
Astronomical dusk: 6:12 p.m., when the Sun’s center is 18 degrees below the horizon
Astronomical twilight (duskish) 6:12 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Night: 6:45 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Then there is the “golden hour” in the morning and evening, a favourite of photographers and painters. It’s a colloquial term, referring to the rich glow of warmer, softer sunlight that occurs usually when the Sun is between 6 degrees below and 6 degrees above the horizon, i.e., the hour or so that begins with civil dawn in the morning and the hour or so that ends with civil dusk in the evening. It actually does last about an hour in the northeast the U.S.

golden hour at Jekyll Creek (Jekyll Island GA), 10 July 2016
back channel, evening, Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit, Maine, 31 May 2016
golden hour light, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, 15 June 2017
evening, pick-your-own flower garden, Spring Ledge Farm, NH, 19 July 2017

Finally, there is my favourite, the rather brief “blue hour,” ‘l’heure bleue.’ It refers to the darker stages of morning and evening twilight, when the sky is deep blue (because “the Sun is so far below the horizon that the light’s blue wavelengths dominate”), and usually occurs when the Sun is between 4 and 8 degrees below the horizon, i.e., during parts of of both nautical twilight and civil twilight. In North America, it generally lasts 15-30 minutes, depending on place and time of year.

“More and more of the past was dragged back into their conversation as they walked and talked in the twilight.” Mary Lavin, from “The Long Ago”

Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square PA), evening, 6 Aug. 2015
entering Baltimore at 5:30 p.m., 8 Jan 2019
twilight at Boothbay Harbor, Maine, 26 May 2012
twilight at Seaside Inn, Kennebunk, Maine, 30 Dec. 2014
Jekyll Island beach, evening, 24 April 2012
Rehoboth beach (DE), 8 p.m. 25 Aug. 2018
twilight at Back Lake, Tall Timbers Lodge, Pittsburg, NH, 10 July 2015
Clam Creek fishing pier, bridge, sunset (5:48 p.m.), Jekyll Island, GA, 19 Nov. 2018

(Thanks to the Time & Date people in Norway for their explanations.)

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” ― John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir


There is quite a debate about when exactly evening begins and ends, with the beginning being easier to pin down: when daylight decreases, or around sunset.  But “the end of evening”? Wikipedia’s introductory paragraph on the topic gives you an idea as to evening’s indeterminate nature:

“Evening is the period of time at the end of the day, usually from about 6pm to bedtime. It is a daily astronomic event of variable time period between daytime and night, and the period in which the daylight is decreasing, after the afternoon and before night. There is no exact time for when evening begins and ends (equally true with night). Although the term is subjective, evening is typically understood to begin shortly before sunset and during twilight (sunset and twilight vary throughout the year), lasting until night – typically astronomical sunset. There can be no precise definition in terms of clock time, but it is socially considered to start around 6 pm. and to last until nighttime or bedtime.”

6 pm to bedtime? “Socially considered to start”? After calibrations to the minute (probably to the second or millisecond) for astronomical, nautical, and civil twilight, evening seems floppy and squishy. My bedtime is often midnight to 1 a.m.; I’d be surprised if that were considered to be evening by many.

veggie garden, 8 p.m. on 18 Aug 2017

In winter here in my part of New Hampshire, sunset can come as early as 4:10 p.m., and in summer as late as 8:30 p.m., so that “the end of evening” across a year might range from 6 p.m. to 11. But by the end of evening, the sky does not look indigo and blue, except very occasionally when there’s a full moon or other lighting, or perhaps snow on the ground. That blue and indigo intensity is more characteristic of the blue hour:

“The French called this time of day ‘l’heure bleue.’ To the English it was ‘the gloaming.’ The very word ‘gloaming’ reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour — carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. As the blue nights draw to a close (and they will, and they do) you experience an actual chill, at the moment you first notice: the blue light is going, the days are already shortening, the summer is gone.” — Joan Didion, from Blue Nights

Heaven?: During the blue nights you think the end of day will never come. It certainly had a heaven-feel as a child when the days went on and on and on, playing outside from morning until the end of evening.

Perfumer Jacques Guerlain called that indigo-and-blue post-twilight time, when “the sun has set, but night has not yet fallen,” the suspended hour. (And I wrote a bit about it last Sept.)

(video linked from this website)

“My shadow is the last thing
twilight will make and the dark
will say I am not what I seem.” — Loueva Smith, from “If I Could Give You One Impossible Thing”

“Night is Earth’s shadow. Your shadow is a tiny, you-shaped night. Your night and Earth’s night know each other well. They have conversations that you can’t hear and wouldn’t understand anyway.” — The Cryptonaturalist

Jekyll island south dunes, 6:15 p.m. on 25 April 2012


Crepuscular (from Latin crepusculum, twilight) animals are active primarily during twilight (i.e, dawn and dusk). Matutinal animals are active only before sunrise, and vespertine only after sunset (that’s me, mostly). The reasons for confining activity to these times are varied: it could be to avoid predators active at other times, to find prey active during these times, or among some predators to avoid competition with other predators. Obviously, if predators shift to find prey and are successful, eventually the prey will either shift their hours of activity or be so reduced in population that the predators will shift theirs, so the balance and behaviours are always in flux. In hot areas, crepuscular activity helps animals beat the heat while still allowing them to hunt in (dim) light. Some crepuscular animals include bats, housecats, jaguars, bobcats, bears, deer, moose, skunks, wombats, and snakes and lizards in the desert. Some birds and many insects are also crepuscular.

bear in yard, 8 p.m., 22 May 2017

Our bears aren’t specifically crepuscular; we have photos of them on the motion camera at almost every hour, including in broad daylight, midnight, 3 a.m., and quite commonly between midnight and 4 a.m.  The same applies to the deer here.


Tomorrow: a new moon leads me


“Melancholy inhabits the liminal, the times and spaces of transition, threshold places. […] The passage across thresholds, through indefinite zones, occurs in the landscape at places like the seashore, in shadows, on the horizon, and in the temporal interludes of dawn and twilight, spring and autumn. In the late afternoon, in the illumination of dust motes by a ray of glancing sunlight, or the long shadows cast across a square, there is the intangible, ephemeral melancholy moment. Or a winter’s day when the grey light falls through a rain-spattered window, time seems slowed almost to a standstill, a palpable poignancy hangs in the air.” Jacky Bowring, from Melancholy and the Landscape: Locating Sadness, Memory, and Reflection in the Landscape (2017)

Featured image: sky with partial moon over garden, 5 p.m., 17 Feb. 2016


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