Thursday, 12 October 2017

Dusk - a trick of the light.

Apparently dusk is highly technical.  The time of dusk is the moment at the very end of astronomical twilight, just before total darkness or night. In fact it is thought of as the darkest part of twilight. Now for the science bit. There are three different types of dusk;
  • Civil dusk is when the geometric center of the Sun's disc goes 6 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the end of civil twilight, which begins at sunset. At this time objects are still distinguishable and depending on weather conditions some stars and planets may start to become visible to the naked eye. The sky has many colours at this time such as orange and red. Beyond this point artificial light may be needed to carry out outdoor activities, depending on atmospheric conditions and location.
  • At nautical dusk, the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the end of nautical twilight which begins at civil dusk. At this time, objects are less distinguishable, and stars and planets are becoming more brilliant.
  • Astronomical dusk occurs when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the end of astronomical twilight which begins at nautical dusk. After this time the sun no longer illuminates the sky and thus no longer interferes with astronomical observations.
Ah that's fantastic but I find myself asking, what does dusk look like? Once or twice I have experienced a moment when the quality of light is totally different from any other that I have experienced. On one such occasion, I was visiting the Lake District with a friend from Australia. I wanted to show him the best of Britain. He had already done a whistle-stop coach tour from London to Gretna and back, taking in Stratford upon Avon, Chester, Bowness and York.

We started at Penrith and worked downwards. We came across Tarn Hows by accident and sat on the hill over looking this small freshwater pool completely alone. It was late afternoon, the sun had already moved behind the hills. We were suddenly aware that the light had changed. All around us was a delicate pinkness. It seemed opaque and dreamlike. It felt magical. I have a photograph of me at that moment. My eyes were wide, the pupils enlarged to adapt to the sudden change. It was a moment in time that I will always treasure.

Later that summer, I took the same friend and my daughter to see an open air production of Romeo and Juliet at Fell Foot Park, near Newby Bridge. We took a posh picnic and sat on blankets to watch. It was terrific fun - the show ending at dusk. As the closing speech finished - a tawny owl cried out. My daughter loves owls. It was another of those 'once in a lifetime moments' and completely perfect.

For those two reasons, I love that time of the day. It is a wonderful time to be on Blackpool promenade, watching the murmuration of starlings before they settle to sleep under North Pier, seeing the wonderful sunsets and (if I am warm enough) waiting for the first stars to show or to see the illuminations 'light up'.  The time between light and dark is fleeting but the most interesting to me. Naturally early mornings can be beautiful too but I am a night owl and seldom up with the dawn unless I have to be.


It is an almost indistinguishable moment,
A flicker in the blinking of an eye,
Frozen in the seconds in between
The red’ning and the blackness of the sky.

In that special space in time that hovers
Where the setting of the sun absorbs the light
Before backdrop curtain starts to sparkle,
Begins the wakening of creatures of the night.

Furry things in burrows start to ruffle,
Ears and noses poke above the ground,
Twilight fliers surge from attic rafters,
Eerie shadows swoop and switch around.

As the sky is filled with dreamlike softness
A gentle ghost goes searching for his prey,
Whiter than the pure first snow of winter
The barn owl shakes the daytime sleep away.

Silently he brushes past the hedgerow,
Eyeing tiny movements on the ground,
A helpless death cry pierces through the silence,
Peaceful dusk is shattered by the sound.

In the darkest part of twilight, you may see him,
Slaloming among the bales of hay
Where he maintains his silent, secret vigil,
In-between the darkness and the day.

Adele V Robinson  - 2017

I have put a link here to introduce you to the beauty of Tarn Hows  - it is well worth seeing.

Thanks for reading.  Adele


Steve Rowland said...

Adele, this was fascinating. Dusk three ways (sounds a bit like meteorological Master-chef) was new for me. The imagery of the poem is terrific. Thank you.