A friend of mine has just got back from a week in New York. Now, this particular friend is not exactly a city slicker; he needs open spaces and wild places like others need oxygen. But, nonetheless, I’m happy to report that he had a good time. I asked him what the highlight of his trip was and he said that it was spending a long evening on the rooftop garden of a restaurant overlooking the lights of the city and just enjoying the view and the company of his friends and family.
Now, although I’ve never been to New York, I recognised that some of my most memorable moments, either at home or somewhere else, happened at night, or at least at dusk. Why is that? What is it about the evening, dusk or night time that makes these magical moments?
Is it that sound travels further in the evening air? (it does, you know, it’s proper science n’ all that) Is it that, for us wildlife watchers at least, that many elusive animals come out in the dusk and dark? Is it that although the morning can provide great sunrises, there’s nothing to touch a sunset? It is all of those things and more. In Norway they, rather wonderfully, call the dusk ‘the velvet hour’. And if May is my favourite month then dusk is my favourite time of day.
Jorge Luis Borges wrote about the ‘solitude of the night’, saying that ‘the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details’. Think back to the last time you were in a wild place on a clear day, watching the last dregs of the day, drinking in the unique colours and sounds; perhaps you were on your own or with someone you love. Were you thinking about the washing up? That idiot at work? Probably not. Like Jorge says, idle details.
I think it was Sting that sang the words ‘bring on the night’, (mind you, Sting also sang the words ‘de doo doo doo, de daa daa daa’ so his poetic skills should be treated with extreme caution) and even if it's a drive home in the dark or sitting in the garden at dusk then the night is where the wild things are. But the velvet hour is also where so many other things are too, just waiting patiently for us to realise.