The perfect time of day.

It’s when the sun gets slower in the sky and casts a golden glow on everything, from the pavement to a flower petal to your eyelashes. Suddenly, that which was washed out and garish in the midday sun or shaded by gloomy clouds is completely new again, as if highlighted by the sun itself in a way that says, “All is better now. Calm down. The day is going to end peacefully.”

Sunday afternoon, it was 79 degrees. I took the most glorious nap on a blanket in the grass at SMU…the kind of nap where you can faintly hear voices in the background and planes zooming overhead and you know that your hair is gently blowing and you can’t remember a time you felt more relaxed. When I awoke on my belly with my head resting on my arms, I looked to the left and saw the 5:30 PM sun drenching my hair in light so it was transparent and suddenly golden. I saw my husband’s hand slightly opened and resting on the blanket, his palm faced upward, his eyes closed peacefully in the direction of the baby blue sky much like it was in New Mexico.

This is what I call the perfect time of day.

I propped myself up on my elbows and removed my handy notebook from my purse (along with a snack from Whole Foods - Bobo’s Oat Bar in Coconut-yum!) and was inspired to make a list of all my favorite experiences that have taken place at this “perfect time of day.” You know the time…7:30 PM or so in the summer…around 5:30 or 6 PM in the fall and winter…how many times have you looked at your surroundings and had that moment of pause, realizing the golden-ness and feeling utter peace in its light? Here are some of the moments I remembered….

Fall soccer games in high school. As the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Manager, I sat on the bench keeping score, noticing the shadows on the field changing slightly with each minute as the sun crept lower. I would eventually grab my windbreaker and notice the goose bumps start to form on my legs beneath my Umbros. The end of the day in autumn.

Closing time at Madison Community Pool. Happy and weary from a day of diving and handstands, I reclined on my mom’s lawn chair in my damp bathing suit and a sweatshirt, eating carrot sticks as she took her last few laps back and forth.

Road trips to Florida. We’d been traveling since early morning, and we were getting close to the utter freedom of that first drive across the intracoastal waterway to our weekend haven. We happily put on our sunglasses as the glittering water blinded our eyes.

Summer camp. All through junior high and high school, I spent a week each summer at church camp in Cazenovia, NY. Beautiful upstate New York...small towns and farmland. We stayed on the campus of Cazenovia College (affectionately referred to as “Caz”) and spent our days doing trust falls and ice-breakers. As evening began to fall, it was break time. This was the time of day when we left our Bible Study groups of random teens from the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania/Maryland area and went back to our rooms. I remember the walk back to the dorm before dinner…I would shout goodbye to my newfound friends across campus and feel my skin still emitting heat from being outside at the peak of the day. What would they have for dinner in the caf? Would I get to sit next to the cute boy in my group?

Going for a bike ride. Mom and I would ride bikes in our hilly neighborhood after school several days a week. I can still remember that “outdoors” smell on my hair and skin after peddling fast up the hills in the wind...then coasting as fast as I could down the hill on Chateau Thierry. It was so great biking at that hour – driving past the houses where people were just arriving home from work and smelling Italian dinners being prepared.

Leaving port. In high school, my mom and I went to Hawaii on a cruise. At the “perfect time of day” every day, we set sail from wherever we were docked to our next port of call. I distinctly remember relaxing at a an open-air table on the huge deck, surrounded by the beautiful Pacific, cold beverage in hand, listening to the live band play their Jack Johnson-esque serenades as we slowly sailed away. The ocean was cast in a golden glow as we wondered what we would see when we woke up tomorrow...

Wedding day. After a joyous backyard wedding ceremony in a torrential downpour, Steven and I drove away in our Beetle to Maggiano’s for our celebration dinner with our closest family and friends. Immediately after our vows, the rain had stopped and at about 7 PM, and the sun peeked out, revealing a rainbow that I hope I never forget.

Here are some of my favorite photos depicting the perfect time of day. I’d love to hear your own memories, or what the perfect time of day is to you…

I took this of my niece, several winters ago. I love how the light is hitting her face.

A live oak dripping with light on a plantation walk in Charleston, SC.

Circa summer '03? Me, Suz, Allen, and Jeremy relaxing in the back of the Andrews family's speedboat on Smith Mountain Lake. Look at the water behind us to the left...

After a day of exploring, here is where we had tea & popovers on the lawn by a gorgeous lake in Acadia Nat'l Park in Maine...

Leaving the blueberry farm in Athens, TX with several buckets full!

Taking a nice break with Suz at Cafe Lalo in NYC after traipsing around Manhattan all day...

The evening my second niece was born.

The sun is setting over view from the Piazza Michaelangelo.

At Peace City Orphanage in India. I remember feeling so content here with these children.

View of the field across the street from my house in New Jersey, in winter. We would get the most beautiful sunsets.

In Destin, when the light gets this low, it's time to clean up and get ready for dinner out on the town...perhaps at Harry T's or The Back Porch!?

Getting engaged in Central Park late on a chilly December afternoon...

Me, my sister-in-law, and my niece at the park (photo by Susan Bill).

Enjoying late afternoon in New Mexico...

First weekend with Steven in Waco.