Within the Golden Hour

About twelve years ago, I spent weekends with my best friend, trying to give her a hand due to various health reasons and life. On Friday afternoon, I would load up my children and dog into my car and drive south west, leaving the four lane highway to merge onto a country road. Two lanes bordered by woodlands.

In the fall, especially just when the trees are starting to turn and the sun is setting earlier in the day, the golden hour would unsurface. With the trees in varying shades of oranges and yellows, the greens still clinging to the innermost veins while the amber spreads from the tips inwards, the sunlight didn’t reflect so much as it was absorbed, refracted by the trees. The shadows didn’t hold the usual green tints. No, everything held a golden, umber saturation.

I was within the golden hour.

In the golden hour, I was driving on roads of poetry. I was within the lines of Frost’s poetry in which “nothing gold can stay” but I felt like I could cling to it, could rub it into my skin, could wear it like gold leaf brushed onto the edges of my soul. Within the golden hour, I was music. I was song and composer and singer and the rich timbre of musical instruments blending with the singer’s voice to create a story, to create a melody. To create a life suspended in the five lines of a music staff.

Within the golden hour, I was the artist. I was the muse. I was the artwork. I was the viewer. I was the paint and the paintbrush. Time hung suspended in the dust motes and flecks of life clouding over the fields of drying cornstalks. Time was rolled into haystalks and left to wait for winter’s need. Time was buried with flower bulbs and covered with autumn leaves so that the bulbs could hibernate over the winter and spring forth with early March’s frigid-warm sun. Time stood immemorial and corporeal and was everywhere and nowhere.

Life within the golden hour was like standing in the rainbow and feeling the colors brush up against my skin. Life within the golden hour was possibility and probability and chance rolled into certainty.

Life changed. My weekend migrations ended. My children grew up, severed the intangible umbilical cord knitted between us. My stories stayed with me as they crafted their own lifelines that held fibers of what we shared but was now theirs exclusively. I lost the golden hour.

Except. Every now and then, I would find it. The way the sun bent through the afternoon landscape, the way the road shined with a hint of amber translucence. And then, I was taken back a decade. I am singing songs and crafting stories and my children are in the back seat chatting or laughing or playing. And the world is just gold, gold gold.

About a month ago, I was driving with my daughter along a country road. The sun was sliding toward the west and, all of a sudden, the trees hovered with a golden porous patina. A sigh escaped me. A contentment lowered my shoulders and eased the tightness in my chest. My daughter noticed me, noticed that something had changed, and asked me about it.

I don’t remember exactly what I said. But I mentioned something about the Golden Hour. And I started to apologize, knowing I was bringing up something obscure, possibly stupid, inane. But her voice lifted in recognition.

“I know the Golden Hour,” she said.

Somewhere, in our history, I had told her about that sacred time when the sun’s curved radius in the sky meets with God’s potential and we are, for those brief and beautiful moments, sacred. And she knew what I emant. And had remembered it.

In that second, my heart lifted. I was not so alone in the world. Someone else could speak my language and knew my time and understood and could see the beauty of the Golden Hour. Someone else knew that for a short time each day, the ugliness could be held at bay and only hope lived.

This afternoon, I took a long walk with my husband. My tension over the election, over Covid and its possibility of returning us to full virtual education, over the possible change in my schedule for next semester, over the fact that I have felt just worn out creatively has caused me to feel like the muscles spanning my rib cage are taut, steel-concrete cords. Our dog trotted beside us, her tail fanning from side to side like a lazy pendulum. We turned a corner, preparing for the last mile toward home and then, I was there.

Within the Golden Hour.

What I have come to see and realize is the everlasting effect of what those sacred moments can mean to me. That even within the ever-tightening, exhausting pains and frustrations, I can still be granted a moment of absolution, a reprieve, a strengthening. It is not a lot. It’s not even really an hour. But when I stretch out the beauty and exist within its purity, it is enough.

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