The faint light perceived before the rising and after the setting of the sun, or when the sun is less than 18 degrees below the horizon, occasioned by the illumination of the earth’s atmosphere by the direct rays of the sun; crepuscular light. Hence, a faint light in general; a dubious or uncertain view. — Webster, 1882
I looked and in the twilight saw the train and the engine, the first I’d ever seen. ‘I thought it was calling me,’ I said and Ma laughed. – Pioneer Girl
Twilight was often a magical time for Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s in the twilight that she sees her first train, when the family stops work and Pa plays the fiddle, and when Almanzo and Laura become engaged. The photo at left was taken at twilight during a Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in De Smet, South Dakota.
Twilight is the time of day when there is some light in the sky, but the sun is below the horizon. Light is visible when the sun is below the horizon because it is reflected by the upper atmosphere, illuminating the lower atmosphere. Twilight occurs twice daily: in the morning before dawn and in the evening before dusk. There are various stages of twilight, depending on how far below the horizon the sun is. At sunset, the geometric center of the sun is across the horizon, shown in the illustration below. When the sun’s center is less than 6 degrees below the horizon, it is called “civil twilight;” between 6 and 12 degrees, it is “nautical twilight;” and between 12 and 18 degrees, it is “astronomical twilight.” After that, it is night!
In the article below, the author describes the quiet twilight at the end of a day, and how one should savor the special time. In our busy, noisy, and electrically lit world, it’s easy to miss the sun setting and the minutes of twilight, especially if you don’t live on the flat, treeless prairie as the Ingalls family often did!
Twilight Thoughts. “For everything there is a season, and a proper time for every pursuit under the sun.”
And this is the season for thought. Twilight broofs over all the world, and with her cool, soft hands soothes away the feverishness left by day. Poor humanity looks for her longingly, greets her eagerly, leans upon her bosom and finds rest.
After the fatigue, the rush and bustle of daytime, this quiet season comes to us as a blessing. The long, cool shadows, the soft, sweet breeze that brings the perfume of distant flowers, the waning light that soothes eyes and brain in refreshing contrast to the noon-day glare. Even the birds rest now; they sang their vesper hymn wit hthe setting of the sun,– all we hear from them now is a low chirp, a faint, contented twitter as each little mother asks if all the children are there. Mellowed by distance, we hear the rolling of carriage and buggy wheels, as the favored of fortune return from their afternoon drive; but the rattle of the dray and the rumble of vehicles used in business have ceased. Both man and beast, worn and weary; have sought their homes, thankful for the twelve hours respite from work ere the sun, commencing his busy round, shall recall them to their labor.
Open all the windows wide, and let the sweet air of the evening into your homes. No fear of prying curiosity from the outside world! The faint light that enters, hardly penetrates to the center of the room. The corners are full of dusky shadows that mingle with the forms of furniture and inmates, blending and mellowing them into one indistinct whole. Instinctively those who are conversing lower their tones, and grow quieter and yet more quiet. The spirit of thought hovers over all, and each brain is busy, and each heart holds a self-examination. I think at this hour the best part of man’s nature asserts itself. If he can have a pure thought, it will come then. If an aspiration for higher things can enter his soul, be sure it is then that it is felt. The season is holy and purifies the world – in mind, at least – while it lasts. A short while later, and night, with sable wings, shall shadow the earth, while crime and vile passions will run riot under her black reign! A short while before, during the heat and noise of day, all men were in a turmoil of competition with their fellow men- some for bread, and some for gold, and yet some for honor and fame. But the twilight is a pause in the every day life of mankind,- the “little while” between the rule of the King of Day, and the reign of the Powers of Night. She is a mild, beneficent Princess, and though her dominion is for so brief a space, she rests us from the tyranny of the one, and prepares us for the exactions of the other. Prolong her reign, if possible; do not let the flaming, garish, gas-jets drive her away from your houses. Beneath her sway, the homes of the rich and poor are all alike; neither magnificence, nor the want of it, can be then discerned.
Let your bodies and minds rest, and drink in the sweet, healing influences of the season. Watch for the stars as they shine out one by one in the sky – then when the whole host of heaven is arrayed above you, the twilight is done – has passed silently away, leaving you the better for her brief visit. Close the windows, draw the curtains, light the lamps, and let each one turn to the avocation that suits him best, either through necessity or by desire,- for the gloaming with its pensiveness is no more, and as “there is a proper time for every pursuit,” so must there be a pursuit to match each season, whether it be the day, the night, or at the turning of the light into darkness. — Lee C. Harby, in Jewish Messenger V. 47, May 14, 1880, page 1.
twilight (BW 9; FB 16, 22; BPC 26; SSL 11, 16, 28; TLW 18, 22, 24; LTP 11; THGY 14, 18, 23, 27, 32-33; PG)