L’Heure Bleue in New Mexico

We’ve fallen into a sort of “them v. us” view of nature. People in my neighborhood in the Sonoran desert curse trees because they are “messy.” I might add that these are the same trees that shade their houses from the scorching sun. As one neighbor told me, “I like the lushful look, but I hate when they drop their leaves or need work.” We’ve come to believe that nature is something “other,” something that needs controlling, a remote, and mostly, to be hidden away from indoors.

twilightlascrucesIt’s a shame, really. There are so much calling you outside. Yesterday, when I drove into Las Cruces I arrived just after sunset, at the time the French call “L’Heure Bleue” –the blue hour. It is a time of day when the shadows are lavender and navy, and a band of light hangs in the sky. The mountains were visible as sihouettes, and the lights of the city twinkled and danced. During L’heure bleue artificial lights are sharper and brighter and the air is suffused with great calm, peace, and a tinge of sadness. A view like that is seen with the heart more than the eyes.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler who is creating a class to be taught in Las Cruces, NM.

Image: Unfortunately, not mine. From: http://www.picachomountain.com/find-your-new-home/#

14 thoughts on “L’Heure Bleue in New Mexico

  1. Two very apropos books: The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben and The Missing Alphabet by Susie Monday, Susan Marcus and Cindy Herbert

    • Yes, you have fabulous twilights. When I moved from South to Washington, D.C., the twilight was much shorter and now, here, it is shorter still. Yours must be goregous–that amazing Sinenen Hetki painting by Petra Sairanen is breath-taking. (One of the images on the Google link you posted.) Lovely!

  2. When we first moved to what is now our home in north central Oregon five of us lived in a single wide, one bedroom trailer and used a huge “storage” trailer as an extra bedroom.
    As work evolved on our two story Victorian restoration project we were “forced” to travel, babies in arms from the comfort of our living space outside, around the house, over the deck, through the cavern of the downstairs area, up the stairs to a mostly finished room with a bed and heater in it that we called a bedroom.
    On route, every night, in the dark, in the cool of summer, rain of spring and fall and cold and snow of winter we had the opportunity to gaze up and behold our rural sky. What beauty there! And every night a different view.
    We got hooked.
    We are sky watchers.
    I’d like to see that L’HEURE BLEUE of Arizona someday.

    • What a beautiful sight! What an adventure! (Of course these adventures are often best appreciated when we no longer have to live them daily.) Arizona has it’s l’heure bleue, too, but I must admit to being captivated by the one in New Mexico this week.

  3. Quinn, I live in Albuquerque, way up on the side of the mountain facing west. I get the most gorgeous sunsets, and now I know about l’huere bleue… The first year I lived in my condo, I took a sunset picture almost every day {the header on my blog is one of them}… but now, unless it is absolutely spectacular, I just shrug and go on my way. I think that I need to look for l’huere bleue and go back to appreciating my sunsets!

  4. The headlines in one of our daily papers yesterday was Cull The Canada Geese. I often hear people talking about the mess the geese make. Also, in Victoria they have had too many rabblits and deer, and the solution often offered is to cull them. This is such a sad commentary on the intolerance and mentality of some human beings. We have destroyed the food source for so many animals and then complain because they – bears, cougars, etc. – come into the cities to eat garbage. Instead of loving and appreciating the beauty of nature they complain about the mess and interference in our lives. Intolerance for “the other” is a very sad thing.

  5. Binary thinking seems to be easy to fall into, particularly when it’s so strongly reinforced by a great deal of the information pervading a culture. It’s not limited to “us” versus “nature” — it’s a mode of thought, and one that can be reinforced because in time- and extent-limited contexts it can work. When trying to solve a problem in the physical world — why won’t my car start, why didn’t my cake bake correctly, etc. — the first mental step, which is so natural for most people it’s not even noticed — is to determine what’s part of the problem. What’s “in” and what’s “out” of the list of things to consider. For example, the color of the car is probably “out” as part of the car starting problem, and the name of a town is probably “out” as a baking issue. So thinking about many immediate problems in a binary way has benefits.

    Now, this is not always the case. It’s possible your car didn’t start because it’s painted black, which led to vapor lock on a hot, sunny day. It’s possible your cake didn’t come out well because you’re in a town called “Denver” for the holidays and you didn’t allow for the altitude. But outliers like those are unusual enough to be kind of entertaining, like the punchline to a certain kind of joke.

    Binary thinking — “include this, exclude that” — is good for some things. It’s a way of simplifying an immediate problem that enhances the effectiveness of your thinking. But for long-term, expansive issues such as species-level survival in a finite biosphere or harmonious coexistence in a diverse society, binary thinking is not called for. So what are we generally taught in the way of thinking at a “higher level”? Well in the western world, we have dualism: good vs. evil, mind vs. body, physical vs. spiritual. The same binary thinking. At that level, I would argue that binary thinking is counterproductive; an oversimplification that reduces effective thought rather than enhancing it.

    It’s an infuriatingly seductive trap though. The only consistent defense I’ve found is a process of “changing focus” where I try to recognize what kind of frame I’ve put around a topic of thought, and deliberately change that frame. “This search program works fine, but I’m only thinking of it being used at a desk, with a keyboard, in a safe environment. What if someone has only a phone, in the dark, stranded in a flood — in a black car in Denver?”

    • Dual (or binary) thinking is great in the beginning of problem solving, if the problem is not people related. People related problems are very fuzzy in general. But we do like our them v. us thinking, and nature gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop quite frequently. Because I live in Phoenix, I appreciate air conditioning, but when I lived in Washington, D.C. I was always aggravated when it was icy and clients would demand us to act as if driving were not dangerous. We were generally expected to put our lives in danger to keep the client happy. Today, children have little interaction with nature, unless it’s on a screen. Too sad.

  6. One of my favourite quotations is from David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous: “we are only human in contact and conviviality with what is not human”. A them & us attitude, keeping nature outside, surely diminishes our humanity. Blessings to you, Quinn!

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