Monday, September 17, 2007

The Last Hour of Light

One of my most vivid early memories, and I knew at the time I would recall it forever, was of a return drive from swimming at Lake Taghkanic, in NY, when I was five or so. It was the last half hour of sunlight, Lara's Theme (from Doctor Zhivago) was playing on the radio, and I recall looking at the glow on the passing scenery and yearning so much I thought my heart would burst.

The last hour of sunlight has continued to haunt me or drive me wild with longing all my life. When I heard in Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince how the prince once watched 44 sunsets in one day, by moving his chair on his tiny planet, I understood at once. I recall reading Carlos Castaneda's Journey to Ixtlan and encountering the passage where Don Juan realizes that Carlos' time of power is the sunset, the last hour of the light. It resonated within me like a foghorn.

While I love the quiet and the light of early morning, I always feel like a visitor there. When I am facing a long road in the last hour of the sun, I feel like I have come into my kingdom. As a child I used to look up into tall cumulus clouds near sunset, to places that were like lit mountain passes, when all below was already in shadow, and I would think heaven would be in a place like that. I would climb up out of the blue gloom into that dazzling last moment of the light and be home.

I have hundreds of photos of the last hour on the road. I think one of the reason I love random road trips is finding myself somewhere, unknown and far from home, in the last moments of the day. Knowing that these moments are fleeting, and that I can't stay, makes them almost unbearably sweet. The pictures in this post are from Grand View Preserve on the coast of Virginia, the carriage road around the Bass Lake on the Cone Manor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and the little park on the New River in Foster Falls, Virginia.

Lara's Theme (also called Somewhere My Love for lyrics added later) can be heard here (with a slide show of scenes of Russia). I somehow sensed, even at age five, that the music was also about longing.

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