I have an hour before sunset, so I hop onto the trail heading straight into the mountains. This is my favorite time of day.
When dusk settles into the dry valleys, I can hear everything around me begin to come alive. There are rabbits hopping through the underbrush, and small birds alighting onto brittle branches. Their collective noise is louder than my footsteps, I suddenly realize. It allows me to travel more quickly and to see more.
Insects buzz until their sound seems to fill the entire space between the earth and the stars. They are lured forth by cooling temperatures, and emboldened by the cover of night.
I know that several miles away the sky’s colors are still streaking forth in vibrant smears of orange and yellow. The sun there is falling towards the horizon, settling out over the sea in one last final display of celestial glory.
Here, however, the moon reigns.
I look and see that she is rising up behind me, luminous and bold, uniting all of her silvery fractions into her fullest and most powerful form. The energy of her ascension pulses out across the landscape, gaining strength as the reach of her light slowly expands across the Santa Monica Mountains.
I close my eyes for a moment and imagine what the ocean must look like at this time, waves rimmed with pale pink as they roll towards shore.
I open them again and feel soothed by the deepening purple of the shadows here.
I love being deep in the Santa Monica Mountains, walking amongst the sage, chaparral, and twisted oak trees, hidden between peaks and making my way up old trails during the magic of twilight.
An owl swoops overhead and a small ground squirrel darts across the path in front of me in fright.
A few more birds hop from branch to branch, just barely out of sight. I keep my eye out for cougar tracks, although I hope I won’t find any.
It rained the night before, and everything seems to be rejoicing as a result. A few clouds move across the sky, billowing here and there in a way that promises more rain. You can almost feel the dry earth give a sigh of relief when the wind picks up.
I climb the nearest hill, breathing hard until I finally crest the top of it. I stand for a moment there, looking out over the gentle valleys and rolling hills. I note the few lone oak trees dotting the ridges of the distant mountains.
Breathing in the night air, I find Venus arcing across the sky.
Just like that, I realize, the transition from day to night has almost ended. The moon is much higher overhead now, the stars are piercingly bright. The shadows now are like deep pools.
Silence begins to return, although I know there are probably a million eyes watching me.
I smile and turn towards home, ready to rest.
It’s an auspicious night and a precious place and the perfect reminder to put myself always in the way of beauty. These are the moments that inspire me. These are the places that motivate me to continue to work towards protecting our beautiful planet. These are the reflective times that encourage me to keep these sacred places serene and untouched for future generations.