The Cycle of Twilight

When Nature Paints the Sky
by Alan Eggleston (@AlanEggleston)

Twilight. That time between dawn and sunrise. When the day’s first glimmer of light begins to turn from black to purple, from purple to magenta, from magenta to rose, from rose to pink, from pink to red, from red to orange, from orange to yellow – and the blaze of golden Sun onto blue canvas that is sky.

Twilight in Michigan. Photo: Alan Eggleston. (c) 2014.

Twilight in Michigan.
Photo: Alan Eggleston. (c) 2014.

When I worked my way through college, I got a job at a gas station filling gas tanks overnight on weekends. It was then that I first learned to appreciate twilight, watching the approaching sunrise that meant I could hand in my gas-tainted frigid gloves for warm sheets and sleep before hitting the books during the day. There weren’t many cars passing through even a college town overnight, so I had a lot of time to watch the sky in the bleak early hours and notice how slowly the darkness yields to light-of-day. With great effort sunlight would spill over the night.

A bluish glow begins to permeate the inkiness of night, and one by one the stars that dot the sky blink out like dorm lights finally giving up the party. Like a fever building in the body, the light builds, hardly noticed if you don’t look for it, but blackness ebbs away to blue. The other colors bleed onto the horizon like paint dabbled on the edge of canvas, but their palette grows as morning waxes.

I see artists build a painting or a photographer image a picture in much the same way, adding colors or elements or forms, sometimes layer on layer, a process that etches an artwork over hours. Twilight sneaks in then builds to a crescendo with the final brilliant touch of light.

Depending on where you are on Earth, this process can take over an hour or, as in the tropics, occur suddenly. I was nearer the 45th north parallel, so it dragged on as it does now. But isn’t beauty worth the wait, when we know the wait is worth the beauty?

We spend our day in the sunlight, in the brilliance of blue or the washed out gray of clouds, until twilight returns at dusk and the process reverses itself at sunset. The colors bleed back into the horizon and blue seeps back into black, the stars slowly popping out into the night sky. Thus is the star lover’s sky cast.

Twilight. That time between dawn and sunrise. Or between sunset and dusk. When nature paints the sky.

 

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