The term Golden Hour may be used in reference to two different things. Let’s talk about the first, first.
In photography the golden hour is the first and/or last hour of sunlight during the day. Leaving the science of why aside, it’s during these times that the light coming from the sun seems softer and warmer. The golden hour is when summertime picnics really hit that “epic” level. It’s when you look around and everything seems frozen in pre-nostalgic magic and time slows down. The golden hour is when, for no reason, you ears pick up the sound of music on the wind and your body and mind float along, carrying you swiftly and urgently into the present moment, where you should be and where you’ve always been. The golden hour opens your eyes to what is right in front of you, what you’ve been seeing all along, and fills you with joy.
In Seattle, our summers are a little bit like the golden hour. After waiting “all day” for our time in the warm sun, it comes in all of it’s belated and magnificent glory. We bask. When the summer hits in Seattle, people go on a feeding frenzy and don’t stop until the hour has ceased. The tedious waiting, the grey skies, the water hanging thick and heavy in the air, it all is forgotten for a second and yet drives us forward. The memory of the long winter and soggy evenings hangs in our minds, veiled and waiting. We are starved and dehydrated survivors stumbling across a desert of rain and when we find the river of golden light and warmth, even though it may only exist for a moment, we plunge in head first and swim and drink and bask. It’s in this hour that friendships are cemented forever. Memories are burned so deep into our mind that they’ll still radiate warmth and joy decades later. The golden hour, whether photographically speaking, or using it as a metaphor for summers in Seattle (or as life in general), is a time that is so short and yet so painfully beautiful that one can’t help but take advantage of it.
In medicine, the golden hour refers to the time a serious trauma victim has to live immediately following an accident. Although there is no proof that 60 minutes is that window, it’s more of a sorrowful euphemism for the idea that medics need to hurry the fuck up to save someone. Why do I bring this up after pontificating about a photographic reference that, to me, relates directly to life? Well . . . because sometimes life ends. Sometimes those melodic notes on the evening breeze are cut short to never be heard again.
At the time of me writing this, news has come of another cyclist dying in the Greater Seattle Area, which brings our toll of beloved friends having their lives cut short to too fucking many. Having lived in Seattle and Ashland, being someone who follows bicycle-related new in an overly-obsessive manner, I’ve NEVER experienced anything like this. The frequency with which people are dying out on public roads on their bicycles in the Puget Sound area is enough to almost make someone want to hang up their helmet forever – which is morbidly ironic because helmets exist to (hopefully) save your life.
I feel blessed to have many friends in this world. Every and any person who rides a bike is a person who I count as a friend. That is a lot of friends. You may have a lot of friends too . . . in fact I would bet money that you do, especially if you know where to look (everywhere). Everytime another cyclist dies I feel like Yoda in The Revenge of the Sith when the jedi are being hunted down and killed throughout the universe and he feels each and every death as a blow to himself. It’s heartbreaking and if I stop and think about it too much (read: at all) it’s unbearable.
As cyclists we exist in a realm of incredibly high risk: public roadways. We’re surrounded by large moving things that weigh a lot, can travel rather fast, and don’t always have a completely sound pilot at their wheel. That doesn’t mean that we don’t belong on the streets and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be there. We all have to co-exist in a world that is inherently trying to kill us. As many of us have heard, we could all die at any moment . . . especially crossing the street. The world is not safe, and while that fact makes it all the more beautiful at times, it also makes it hard. Hard for those who are taken away and hard for those left to miss them.
If you don’t realize how sad and crazy it is that we’ve lost so many cyclists in such a short period of time, check out these links.
Riding a bike is dangerous. Many know this, some know it too well, some don’t know it well enough. I went on a typical Seattle “Golden Hour” ride yesterday, all day, and enjoyed every second of it. And I didn’t die. News of bicycle riders being killed is inspiration to keep riding, in their memory and for their spirit, but also a harsh reminder to be careful out there. Please, please, please remember that. Wear your helmet, use your brakes, be visible, make good decisions, be aware of your surroundings always. I can’t bear to lose more friends.