John Steinbeck described it as “the hour of the pearl.” For him it was a magical interlude just before dawn: “The interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.” My hour of the pearl is the long dusky moment after the sun has dipped, and it is no longer day but not yet night.
From where we stand on this outermost edge the dark mass of night sweeps in over the world from the ocean as the day withdraws over the bay, its light still mixed in the molecules of the air. The two blend in a soft blur. There is no tension. It is not a fight. It is the graceful transition of power. “It’s your turn now,” says one to the other. And we are in between, witness to it all.
This is my favorite moment. The body comes alive in this moment. Something inside awakens to this transition. It blossoms from the core and spreads out to the edges of the skin and keeps going past our edges and into the soft, fading light. Our awareness is broadened, as if we’ve grown a new sense.
I imagine that what happens is this: by day, our eyes dominate our sense of the world; they gather and report and hold sway in our brains. But as the light fades, the eyes must cede their seat of influence. If we listen, they tell us, “I am no longer your greatest help here.” Now the body awakens. The ears gather the far-off rustling sounds we fail to note at other times. The skin feels the air, its warmth or coolness, its movement. The nose has more space at the table of the mind, making the subtle, damp smell of lichen and the straw-scent of dune grass rich and full.
And the edges of the body blur; the world becomes more a part of us, and we become more a part of the world.
Recall how you navigate as you walk a path in the woods as the sun sets. The roots beneath your feet are vivid in their texture. The grains of sand that grind and shift underfoot are turning cobbles. The brush of the pine needles across your arm is heard from within. Your spatial awareness is keen, your intuition guiding you around things you know only faintly.
There is surrender in this walk, a giving over that can allow the mind to wander and dream a little as thoughts begin to play with their boundaries.
If I allow it, this hour is when my mind releases its grip on what it believes it knows and entertains things that don’t quite fit by light of day. When I was little, I knew that this moment was a space between worlds. If I stepped behind the right tree, I thought, I might move into another time and place — one where dark, ancient things with long stories lay in swamps. It is a time for writing fairy tales.
Where thinking is not so black and white, it is not quite purple, and not really blue, but softened to a smooth sheen, like the inside of a shell.