The Blue Hour

3 Min read

Phases of twilight

2 Book recs

5 Regrets of the Dying


It is the darkness which gives that first burst of light its brilliance.


This weekend my daughter returned from spring break. Sitting in the TreeHouse very early that day, I read with a booklight on its lowest setting, a bubble around the illuminated page, all else in shadow beyond my lap and the sofa.

I hadn’t given much thought to the hour. Since the time change, it is darker when I wake. As I read, I barely noticed the faint blue glow. When I turned the page, I glanced at the east windows.

On a peach-to-indigo canvas, poplar and pine and oak branches inked skyward. Sunrise was yet to break.

A photo from the TreeHouse taken after reading, close to daybreak

It was a moment of startling beauty. Leaning back and fully aware, I remained completely still and in so doing hoped to hold on, to will time to stop. On most days when skies are clear at dawn, a rose light creeps along the floor and brightens the room.

So, what made this morning particularly stunning?

  1. First, I was lost in story, in the pages of someone else’s mind. Beautiful in its own right, this had me disconnected from the physical world. And, I was reading in the TreeHouse with three walls of windows to see outside, as opposed to sleeping in bed.
  2. Second, it was completely dark, before astronomical twilight.* This is the first of the three phases when the sun is respectively 18 degrees, then 12 degrees, and then 6 degrees below the horizon. It is the darkness which gives that first burst of light its brilliance.
  3. Third, the earth is moving. It may be slow, but the sky at the margins–that transition period from night to day–is a magical time photographers call the blue hour before daybreak and the golden hour after daybreak. And I realize something nearly as startling as the visual beauty: as the earth moves so do I.

Source: The 3 phases of twilight are astronomical twilight, nautical twilight, and civil twilight.


I may be seated and still, but the changing colors of dawn prove beyond a doubt that I am moving.

I move because the earth moves. Gravity holds me here, but the earth rotates at roughly 1000 miles per hour. And, the earth moves around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour.*

I am part of all this magnificence, a small piece of the cosmos. Spring is here and with it the trees will fill out and grow dense with leaves. The dawn light will no longer break through bare branches.


Taken with phone at the approach of daybreak

My daughter made it home and she helped plant the Hakuro Nishiki or dappled willow. The name for the small tree refers to the three-color variegrated leaves in white, pink, and green.

I finished the book I was so engrossed in during the blue hour, and found this line towards the end.


When you’re mindful, your mind is serving you, rather than you serving your mind.*

Greg Hiebert

Spring planting of Hakuro Nishiki, the dappled willow


*The Blue Hour

The Blue Hour refers to the darker stages of morning and evening twilight, when the Sun is quite far below the horizon, coloring the sky deep blue. Like the golden hour, it is a favorite with painters and photographers.”

Because the blue hour is a colloquial term, it doesn’t have an official definition similar to dawndusk, and the 3 phases of twilight. Rather, it refers to a state of natural lighting that usually occurs at daybreak in the morning and during the last stages of twilight in the evening.

However, the blue color spectrum is most likely to emerge when the Sun is between 4 and 8 degrees below the horizon. By this definition, the blue hour encompasses parts of both nautical twilight and civil twilight. ”

(Source: Konstantin Bikos and Anne Buckle. The Blue Hour.

*Greg Hiebert. You Can’t Give What You Don’t Have: Creating the Seven Habits That Make a Remarkable Life. (2018, p. 262). My friend’s brother (the author) sent this to me and the book is full of stories, suggestions, and studies. I stood in the kitchen and scanned the contents, then proceeded to finish the whole introduction. The writing and format make it easy to read. He has reflection and action pages in the chapters for the reader and he draws on a lifetime of experience as a military leader and business executive. Greg shares the top 5 regrets from a hospice nurse’s blog, things she’d heard most from her dying patients. Of all the things in his book–which are numerous–I’m not sure why, but I thought I’d share this mention on page 102.

Bronnie Ware’s blog and best-selling book, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.” Follow the link to read her one page explanation of these on her blog. It takes mindful to a whole new level, providing perspective for everyone of us.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

*Andrew Fraknoi. “How Fast Are You Moving When You Are Sitting Still?”, No. 21 Spring 2007.

Apr 1, 2024


About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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