How you start your day is how you shape it. If you don’t start your day the way you want to, someone else will shape it for you. This applies to anyone: a student, a professional, an entrepreneur, or a parent.
The term “golden hour” defines this fragile moment in time. The golden hour is a critical time for saving a life and savoring a life.
In the medical industry, it is “the first hour after the occurrence of a traumatic injury, considered the most critical for successful emergency treatment.” In photography, it is roughly the first hour of light after sunrise, and the last hour of light before sunset, when the quality of light produces optimal photographs.
Photographers sometimes call it the “magic hour.”
I love taking advantage of the magic hour, morning edition. The magic hour happens before we do anything else, before we give ourselves to the rest of the world. This time is a chance for us to save and savor our own lives.
Reflection in the morning is ideal because our brain hasn’t had the chance to go into overdrive yet. Our bodies move slower as well. I was never a morning person. Mornings used to baffle me—especially as I became an adult carrying a cumbersome bouquet of responsibilities I never tried to catch.
The morning seemed to move so much faster than any other part of my day. I would get out of the shower and check the clock to find out I had been in there for 15 minutes, instead of 5. Then, I rushed out the door to get to work or school on time.
I was habitually late because I moved slower. I never gave myself the time I needed to embrace the magic hour. Now I give myself extra time to enjoy it.
My magic hour is typically filled with morning meditation and a short yoga practice. I’ve also started reading, something I never used to attempt in the morning because it relaxes me too much. So, rather than fiction, I read from a business or wellness book to jumpstart my mind and inspire ideas for the day.
The other morning I broke up my week and embraced the magic hour in an entirely different way. The night before I laid out my hiking clothes instead of my yoga clothes, without really thinking about it. I needed to get away from the roar of the city. I knew the best way to achieve that was to go above the roar.
The trail to Pittock Mansion is one of my favorite hikes in Portland. I haven’t hiked this trail as much as I used to, because it takes two hours round-trip. When you run your own business, leisure time is treated with care. You’re always thinking about your business, and you can easily feel guilty when you step away from it.
On this particular Wednesday, I was craving nature so badly that I decided to make this lengthy hike happen. The magic hour seemed like the perfect time. That meant leaving my house right when the sun came up and freezing my ass off.
As soon as I left my apartment, I thought: What the fuck am I doing? I could have been sitting with my cats, drinking coffee in my blue fuzzy robe. I walked by Tin House books and read their quote board out front, as I always do when I need inspiration. The board confirmed I was doing the right thing.
The Pittock Mansion hike is five miles round trip, uphill there and downhill back home. At the top is the reward, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous view of the city and Mount Hood. The grounds at Pittock Mansion are equally gorgeous, with a groomed landscape bordered by various species of fragrant roses.
A few minutes into my hike, I started wondering what the hell I was doing again. My whole body felt heavy and my exposed ankles beneath my leggings were cold and achy. Despite my good intentions to seize the magic hour, I was whining like a little bitch.
Early morning runners and hikers I passed on the trail helped me snap out of it. They were just so damn happy. They had the same mindset, having decided to seize the day and freeze their asses off in the forest like me versus staying in bed a little longer. Eventually, the crowd thinned out and I found the solitude I was hoping for.
The Stone House is normally a gathering spot in Forest Park, with kids playing around the structure and couples pausing for a smooch before deciding on a trail direction. That morning it looked very much like the witches house all the children pretend it to be.
I had the honor of watching a woodpecker have his way with a tree. Birds sang loudly, almost off-key—like they were singing alone in the bird bath, not giving a damn.
When I arrived at the top, I was rewarded with shocking stillness. I had Pittock Mansion to myself for the first time ever. No selfies, no tourists…just me and my city.
The sun hovered over the city, nudging it to wake up. I sat down at the Lover’s Bench above the roar, capturing and savoring every line of the landscape. I felt so peaceful on my hike back home and I was ready for my day.
With as much time as we all spend on screens, it is perhaps more important than ever to do something else when we first wake up. The magic hour is a chance to establish a deeper connection with ourselves.
How do you embrace the magic hour? Would love to hear about your morning routines.