It was the gloaming, when a man cannot make out if the nebulous figure he glimpses in the shadows is angel or demon, when the face of evening is stained by red clouds and wounded by lights.
--Homero Aridjis, 1492: The Life and Times of Juan Cabezon of Castile
Growing up in Central California, the summer was an endless blur of sweltering days and stifling nights. The sun was a red ball that would hesitate and then quickly drop behind Mt. Diablo. Night would come on quickly. The heat of the day would become thick and heavy and make the night edgy. You would wait for the slightest movement in the trees to signal a breeze from the delta. Off in the distance the rumble and moan of a train would drift your thoughts to places far away.
Now I live north of the 45th parallel. Here the night comes gently. Slowly the sun sets and the shadows lengthen. The sky glows pink and tinges the undersides of the clouds golden before color escapes from the day. At 10 in the evening it still light. The gloaming time.
One June, we backpacked to Mad River. It was mid-week and we had the trail to ourselves. We set up camp on the side of a large flower filled meadow. After dinner, we decided to take our sleeping bags out to the middle of the meadow to watch the stars come out. At 10 pm, the sky was still aglow with the rays of the set sun and we could easily see our camp. By 11 pm, most of the meadow was in dark but only one or two stars could be seen. We were done in by the long twilight. Too late for us wait any longer so we stumbled back to camp and slumber.
Tonight is the solstice. The morning was partially cloudy but by noon a storm had blown in. The rain was pouring, lightening sparking and thunder booming. An ominous start to summer. But early in the evening, the clouds broke and the deck dried out. It was crisp and fresh; perfect for a fire. We started up the chimnea and toasted the longest night.