In the midst of this winter, I was trying to remember twilight...in my childhood. In the summer. The heat dissipates. Air is thick. My body stills. The window open, the sky slips off the edge from violet blue heading to black. The air soft, velvety, tired from the day’s sharp and heavy humidity. I can smell grass that’s just been cut by someone’s dad after dinner. I hear a sprinkler. A mosquito buzzes over my ear, close, its bass hum making me twitch. I can hear people chatting quietly, laughing occasionally, ice cubes clinking against glass in the distance. A gate squeaking open and closed, the latch clicks…porch lights come on.
People are drawn to sundown…we gather. Primal. Watching the end of day, watching the source
of our life slip over the edge – a collective release of optimism, or is it hope, that we will
be fine to wait for its return. We treat sunset reverently.
We stand facing the same way – joined, but alone. I’ve seen the sun set into oceans around the world, but
had never seen the green flash until last year. We arrived at Anna Maria Island for
a week in April. We arrived late afternoon – with plenty of time to walk to the
beautiful beach. No haze on the horizon
– a clear prospect for the sun to drop cleanly off stage. At its last possible moment, it winked a brilliant green light, like a
magnesium flare…and we looked at each other and said at the same time – did you see it? There’s almost no twilight. Sun sets. People turn. Night
As the day fades into evening my husband’s mother fades too.
Her brain on Alzheimer’s mode, she gets lost. Her instincts tell her she’s not
safe, like an animal looking for shelter. This is when she has most of her falls. When her bones crack, and her
breathing is short. She is losing this battle. Every day is a new wonder of yesterday’s
facts – why she’s in the hospital. What hospital she’s in. Why she can’t move
her arm. Why she can’t go home. The experts debate the drugs: they help her
brain, they make her fall…which is the lesser of the evils. The specialists
call it sundowning – but it's not...it's shadow raising...it should be about shadows…not sunset.
The day was just about over when we finally pulled into
Agra. A long drive from Jaipur. The dust, the dung, the frenetic, and frankly, suicidal, tendencies of our driver frazzled us. It was the end of day Thursday –
and we were there for 24 hours to see the town’s virtue – the Taj Mahal. As we checked in,
the hotel owner warned us to get over there pronto as the government had just
changed the rules – the building built for love was now closed on Fridays.
That, I thought, was pretty much my karma when it came to love.
We grabbed a taxi. As the building appeared in the distance beneath the Mughal
arch, my breath reflexively drew itself in. The Taj Mahal is spectacular, a tribute to
beauty – even swarmed by barefooted tourists, wedding couples, families. Its
symmetry gives you some peace, except the sky used that moment to open. We were drowned in torrential rain – not drips, buckets. A second karmic tribute to my love life. We
ran for it. Taking shelter in the actual mausoleum, staring back along the
gardens as the rain washed the tourists away. And once it faded and moved on, we crept back out and wandered gently back along the gardens. My third karmic signal of love. The sky to the west was a
deep metallic grey, with a severe straight edge just hovering above the
horizon. And an equally severe and beautiful glow of pink was growing behind it
as the sun met the opening before hitting the horizon. We spun around to look
at the Taj Mahal. And as we did the sun burst below the cloud
line, deep on the edge of the earth, and for the final minutes of that day, it lit the white marble to a stunning pink and peach, warming the sky…and lighting us up. I’ll never forget – it gave me hope that love comes even if it’s
before sunset – and it can be spectacular. It did. And it is.
Twilight, long and slow. Beautiful in winter. As the northern hemisphere bends itself
towards the sun come spring…the colours of the fading daylight bring me the
same sense of calm they did as a child. But also a sense of sadness – a profoundly
deep sense of time I feel in my cells. Mere moments of
time I wish I could lock away somewhere. The sun moves beyond the
reach of my window as it creeps further and further over my head. Longer days, sunsets,
and the trailing spectrum of blues that lead us through night. It is, and will be, long
after me. I close the blinds to the night. I turn the porch light on.