In the evenings, after dinner, my mother would often call us out to the front porch to look at the sunset, announcing it with all the enthsiasm of a solar eclipse. While indeed beautiful, it usually looked pretty much the same from night to night, a velvety blue sky slashed with swaths of red, purple and gold. But that wasn’t the point, it was the hour itself. There was something special, almost dreamlike about sitting on the stoop with a cup of tea in the waning light. Everything warm and familiar, softened into beauty. Ugly was momentarily forgiven, plain became pretty and pretty became wondrous. Sometimes half light shows the potential of something, more than the just the maudlin surface illumed by an oblivious daylight. Neighbors sitting scattered about on the private islands of their own stoops, nodding, waving or sighing a half intelligible greeting. A fiend ambling up the street to share the days events. Nothing was ever rushed, those ten or so minutes of red, blue and gold were an eternity.
I think now that my mother just wanted us to see. She was always pointing out little details as we would walk, a gargoyle carved in a building facade, the difference between two types of brick or even the progress of a leaf being blown down the street. The ability, and desire, to Look is probably the most valuable gift I was ever given.
Twilight in the city is different than in the countryside. In the country it is a given. It’s just another part of the daily, albeit beautiful, cycle. In the city, it can pass unnoticed like a thief. If you are distracted at the wrong moment, it’s gone. If you look at the wrong thing, make a phone call or take too much time eating dinner, it’s gone. This can make it all the more jarring when you do catch it. Not the postcard cliche of a vast city skyline but something intimate, those few moments when garbage disappears, traffic sounds quieter and everyone looks like they’re just ambling along. At those times when you take a second to actively look, you see it and you want to amounce it with all the enthusiasm of an eclipse.