The Blue Hour (L’Heure Bleu)

As late afternoon fades into twilight, there is a time of day that is neither light nor dark, too early for stars and too late for coffee. Richard Guerlain, the house nose, named a perfume for that time in Paris when the city holds it breath, before the lights dance on the Seine. For years, L’Heure Bleue was Catherine Deneuve’s signature fragrance. It was heady, romantic, and plush, like the suspended time it was named for.

Paris, L’heure bleue by

There is something about that time of day that makes me both melancholy and fearful. It has done so since before I knew what either of those words meant. As a child, we played outside most of the day, but as the sun began to drop below the horizon, I headed indoors as fearful as Cinderella at midnight.

I’d see the lights begin to come on in the houses around me and I’d long to be indoors, in the light and warmth. Even in summer, when indoors was hot and close, I’d prefer it to being outside at that time of day. There are no bad memories associated with that time of day, no dreaded secrets, I just dislike those hours.

My grandmother died largely unknown to me, but I remember clearly that she, too, didn’t like this time of day. Did not find it magical or enchanting. She would draw the heavy curtains against that half light, saying she couldn’t stand the quality of daylight.

It’s not the quality of light for me, as I love the pre-dawn hour with the same uncertainty of light. I’m not afraid of the dark, and often walk late at night. So I was particularly surprised over coffee with my friend, when she said, “I don’t know how you can get up and walk before dawn.” Before I could explain about the metallic quality of the sun early in the day, she said, “that time of day gives me the creeps.” She couldn’t explain why she hated it, just that she did. She has that same despairing, washed-away-from-short feeling. But her feeling comes at dawn, not dusk.

Is there a time of day you dread? Do you know why? Share.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and raw-art journal keeper. You’d think the time work is over would be longed for, but no, it’s a time that she needs to keep herself busy and occupied.