From dusk til’ it’s gone

Dusk, by far, is the best time in our area to walk. It’s the perfect combination of the day being left behind and the night slowly creeping ahead. It’s a mellow cool that forgets all of the hots and colds of the past twelve hours. It’s a time of maximum voyeurism, of inhibitions being shed with the work that has passed, of the lights burning bright while the shades stay up.

In an effort to get the labor ball moving, we took a long walk through our gentle McKennan Park neighborhood. This is the routine you begin when pregnancy is about to become parenthood – you walk a lot, and hope that the baby decides to kick labor into high gear. And soon.

As dusk approached, I thought of how long it had been since we had taken a walk under the slowly darkening sky. It’s one of my favorite things – and since the summer makes night come a lot later, I had gone without for a while.

It’s one of my favorite things because of how open everything seems. It’s the one time that everyone is making a similar change, from day to night, from work to relaxation, from lights off/shades open to lights on/shades closed. I’ll admit – I love to walk around our area of town and see the lives inside their houses, safely, from sidewalk level, as people make their way from high stress to low impact.

While we walk, we dream. We point out our favorite interiors. We see if a beautiful exterior hides a unkempt interior. We think about our next house, just like we thought about our first house long before we moved back to Sioux Falls. We place ourselves inside, marveling at the ancient details and loving every wooden banister, every stained glass window, ever hard wood scuff and every last cobweb and other pest.

Some houses are as familiar as our own – houses we pass often, families who never have their shades closed, themselves voyeurs to the outside world, hoping and praying that everyone who walks past gets to see what they’ve worked so hard to create. It’s as if their life was painted onto the glass, securing the Norman Rockwell vision for all to see.

I’ll admit, I’m like that myself. If I had my way, I’d leave every window open, every light blazing, so people could see what I’ve designed. I’d invite everyone in to tour my modest little house, to see our national park themed basement, our quaint living room, our abandoned dormer. I’d take them from room to room, asking them to admire every last detail, every small change we’ve made in the name of perfecting our personal space.

That personality is the real allure, I think. We don’t gaze because people have expensive or exquisite furniture or amazing views. No – I’m interested in the fact that these people have polished every detail for themselves. When you look into someone’s dusk-riddled home, just after the lights go on, you’re looking into that person’s personality. You’re seeing their tastes and their hobbies and every physical aspect of their life.

For just a second. Just a glimpse, you can imagine yourself there. And then, when the key turns and you’re back inside your own house, you can appreciate the differences. You can appreciate that there’s no other house in the world that could feel as comfortable as the one you’ve spent years building up and placing just right, like a hibernating animal going down for its winter nap.

That’s dusk. The mixture of light and dark. The fleeting moments when everyone is open to the world. And then, just like that, the shades are pulled and your access is gone.

This was lovingly handwritten on July 18th, 2007