I have strolled out onto my deck this evening to read a book. It is twilight, the period when time is suspended between day and night. I must admit that I am equally enamored with both sunrise and sunset, and to choose a favorite would be like picking a favorite child. I love watching the world awaken at first light, but I am equally intrigued when the western sky starts glowing red and the day’s activities wind down. In the grand enterprise of life, this is the shift change between day’s animals and the creatures of the night. For me it is my time to relax and unwind and enjoy the cool, still air of evening.
Tonight I emerge just as the sun was dipping below the trees. I have watched the leaves change from a golden green, back-lit by the angled rays of the setting sun, to now just silhouettes against the evening sky. It is an active time as the birds make their final scramble for an evening meal before settling down to roost. I sit back in my chair and watch a nighthawk make a low pass. Above it a chimney swift beats the air in its pursuit of high-flying food. To my right a small flycatcher is silhouetted against the top of a cherry tree. Again and again it makes a mad dash from its perch to snag small insects then quickly returns to await the next hapless bug.
In the lilac bush a Carolina wren has hopped up and is clinging sideways to a branch; its raised tail and quick movements give it a cocky appearance. However, tonight it is quickly scolded by a chattering hummingbird passing overhead on its way to the feeder. The hummer takes a quick drink then rises to a low branch on another cherry tree where it can keep vigil over its food supply. I’ve learned that hummingbirds are among the most selfish and protective of all the birds that visit my yard. It would seem they exert more energy protecting their food source than they could possible derive from feeding there, but they are determined, if nothing else.
The finches are feeding actively and I can hear the cardinals in the nearby woods giving their “chip” call. The wings of the mourning doves whistle as one by one they rise from their resting spots on the ground. A pileated woodpecker sings out with its laughing call as it searches one of the dead trees in my woods for hidden ants or larvae. Overhead small flocks of birds pass hurriedly to their evening roosts. One flock stands out, and that is a large muster of crows. I have not before noticed an evening flock pass by, but I’m sure it is a common occurrence. I think of Shakespeare’s words, “Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood.” Their hulking figures lend an eerie quality to the evening.
The light is growing fainter and now a large dragon fly patrols the area near the top of my trees. I’ve yet to see it, but soon the brown bat will make its appearance. The mosquitoes are feasting on my ankles, so the bat is sure to have a good meal.
Now the sounds are beginning to change. Bird calls have become less frequent, but a cicada has started with its raspy buzz. From a dozen different spots surrounding me in the woods, frogs have begun their evening trills. A cricket is evidently inspired and joins in this nacht musik. From across the creek, dogs are barking and baying from farms and backyards. First it was a lone dog off to my left, but soon a group of dogs with deep voices like hounds added its comments. The call was carried off to my right as a smaller dog started barking, as well. Just as quickly as they started, the dogs quickly lose interest and are silent once more.
The air is now noticeably cooler. For so much of the summer it has been too hot and humid to sit out in the evening. Even darkness brought no relief, but the sunlight now strikes the earth more obliquely and its heat is much less intense. Our days are still quite warm, but mornings and evenings are very comfortable and invite open windows. I’ve moved indoors to escape the mosquitoes, but I can still hear the evening sounds. The frogs and crickets are now in full voice, and the birds are silent. The nighthawk just made a final pass before disappearing into the darkening sky. It is time to bring in the bird feeders before the raccoons make their evening scavenging raids from the nearby woods. They are always quick to take advantage of a free meal, and all feeders must be in before nightfall. They usually come when it is too dark for me to see them, but their fighting and squabbling usually alert me to their presence. The sound of fighting raccoons can be quite unsettling on a dark night, but tonight it is just the frogs and crickets.
Like the birds, I too have come to the end of my daily activities. Tomorrow I will rise and sit in my rocker on the porch and watch the sun return in the eastern sky. As the rays of sun warm me, I will resume my book, listen to the shift change once more and enjoy the greeting calls of the morning birds. “And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” And like Him, I see that it is good.