Nature Diary: the golden hour

There is something terribly melancholic about the short stretch of time which isn’t quite day, yet isn’t quite night. It overwhelms me with nostalgia for a life I’m not sure I ever lived; it floods me with memories I haven’t yet formed, and perhaps never will.

I walk the dirt track which leads to my house, watching dust billow up in my wake. This strange, transitional hour imparts a surreal beauty on everything it touches; individual dust particles catch the light, dancing around one another in a carefully choreographed routine. In the distance, the leaves of the silver birches which line the river glisten like coins tossed upon tumultuous waves.

As if sensing the imminent departure of daylight, fields of barley yield to the wind’s caress, soaking up the last of the day’s warmth. A flock of starlings shoot by, moving with military precision. I think I could reach out and touch them; they pass me so closely that I can feel my hair stir with each beat of their wings. They transport me to October; I remember last year’s murmurations so vividly that I can almost feel the chill of winter on my skin. Short days, long nights; muddy wellies, thick coats; opening my mouth to watch tendrils of steam snake their way into the night air.

In the present day, I revel in the warmth on my skin with renewed gratitude. I count the freckles on my arms; each one reminds me of a summer gone by. One particular cluster makes a crude smiley face if you squint hard enough. The metallic jingle of an ice cream van somewhere in the distance melds with the chorus of birds in the hedgerows: the soundtrack of summer. Like a sunflower, I turn my face to the sun and allow myself to just feel.

I recently learned about the Japanese concept of Yugen: a profound, inexplicable understanding of the beauty of the universe. Engulfed in nature, bathing in the glow of the golden hour, I experience it firsthand—and it leaves me breathless.

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