I learned a new phrase today – six words sewn together in a hypnotic exchange of emotion, storytelling and magical thinking. They are: “the time between dog and wolf.”
Ironically, this is not a new phrase. Variations can be traced throughout history. As an example, the ancient Greeks used the term “hypnagogia” to describe the lost time between being awake and falling asleep – the divide between conscious thought and the activation of the unconscious mind.
Scottish highlanders have a different history and interpretation of these six words. Picture for a moment, both kith and kin gathering at the neighborhood pub referring to the “darkening hour” or the “glooming.” These are words they would use while cautiously recounting stories of the folk who tended flock in the fog-shrouded valleys and moors – enlightening those willing to imagine the uncertain light that complicates the ability to distinguish friend from foe. I fear these storytellers may have caused their listeners to be momentarily lost in alarming thought for the remainder of the evening, let alone the anxious walk home.
My favorite, however, is the French translation – “l’heure entre chien et loup.” I love how the words musically roll off your tongue, while linking together the uncertain hours that we refer to as dusk or twilight. As an author, what I love about this version is its ability to carry a reader’s emotion, while sweetly scrutinizing feelings into multiple layers of significance.
Writers enjoy stringing together words like these. They can send the reader into a crazy mind-bending state. For novelist and poets, these six words deliver shallow waters in which to wade in – a depth where a reader can experience the mind-altering potential of dreaming about a situation, while having enough conscious awareness to remember what is true. It provides a marvelous position of forewarning, where control is never relinquished, regardless of what image develops behind the readers closed eyes.
Now, when I think about the phrase, “l’heure entre chien et loup,” I have one insurmountable question – When am I safe and when am I threatened? Let me explain that statement further. When I look inwardly, I question whether there have been occasions when my eyes somehow have habitually deceived me. As an example, when I see my reflection in the mirror, do I truly see who I am? Am I a dog or a wolf? Conceivably, I may be both.
Asking questions is a good thing. Questions allow me to stop for an instant and examine what uncertainties exist between what I see and what I imagine. Answering questions can change how I define myself, and, whether I accept or discard the narrative that others have said about me in the past.
In the end, I learned from my examination of “l’heure entre chien et loup” that all of us have a special moment that occurs every day when the veil between our conscious and unconscious mind becomes thinner. It is a magical moment when we can access a bottomless fountain of the creative potential required to see beyond the obvious. That is the good news. The bad news? Regrettably, for some, those moments may never exist.