The short hours of winter daylight in northern climes have been known to drive some folk to madness. Such a visible reminder of brevity can be frightening. But it has its magical, lovely characteristics, too, not least of all in the extended reach of dusk backward into daylight hours, when the encroaching dark of a long night is preceded by a wash of sweet watercolor lengthening slowly, easefully across the sky. It begins barely past noon, the sun clinging to the horizon’s edge while rolling at this seasonally low angle to other parts of the globe. It often ends, it seems, with a snap of the sky’s lid into full darkness, but until then the whole afternoon has been suffused with yearning and attenuated gleam, the sky a pearl rather than the flat, undifferentiated blue of its cloudless expanse often seen on longer days.
Sunset begins as dawn is barely ending,
The day a secret known to but a few
Who see such light without yet apprehending
That their mortality is old while new,
That death will follow birth in shorter seasons
Than anyone admits or likes to know,
Yet even such tight brevity has reasons
For relishing the afternoon’s brief glow.
Say this, if you would savor for its beauty
A life as short as sorrows make it seem:
That recognizing light remains a duty,
And relishing the colors of its gleam
A pleasure that entrances more compactly,
Succinctly, for the smallness of the day,
And teaches us to see such joys exactly
Within their span, before they fly away.
The moon, appearing ere the sun has faltered,
The sun chasing her tail toward the moon,
And all the stars that follow them, are altered
In sight because I know they vanish soon,
And I with them, but dream that time will lengthen
Enough to let me see another day,
Wiser for seeing afternoons that strengthen
And nourish me by coloring the way.
Sunset begins as I was barely crying,
Newborn, and night appears and quickly wins,
Yet even as I feel I’m fainting, dying,
I know life’s beauties when sunset begins.