The Golden HourApril 30, 2009 Leave a comment
Last week Melinda and I had one of those experiences where everything seemed to come together. We were in Farmington, Connecticut with grantees of the Graustein Memorial Fund’s Discovery Initiative, training them in collaborative leadership techniques for their community-based work around improving early childhood education and care. For starters, the group was remarkable. The chemistry of those that came together from around the state was what any trainer or participant dreams of, and the shared passion for and commitment to their work was nothing short of inspiring. Beyond that, Melinda and I just seemed to be on our game, pulling from a wide range of tools with a well-coordinated readiness to go as deep as the group seemed willing to go. Collectively we created a space that filled gradually with rich learning, self-revelation, strong connection, and things that are still difficult to articulate. It was the kind of session that people left saying, quite literally, “I am different than when I arrived.”
Later as Melinda and I were driving back home on Friday evening, still savoring those three days, we turned a corner on the Mass Pike, and the city of Boston leapt up to greet us. It was around 7:30, the end of a beautiful clear spring day, and the sun was in such a position that it illuminated everything in a rosy hue and accentuated every nook and cranny, making buildings seem almost more than three dimensional. I have always loved that time of day, when the world becomes softer and more vibrant. Come to find out from Melinda that there is actually a name for this in photographic circles – “the golden hour” – the first and last hour of sunlight during which the sun’s rays travel obliquely through the atmosphere, lending indirect radiance and enhanced color to whatever they touch.
Reflecting back on our time in Farmington, I find this concept of the golden hour to be an apt lens through which to view our experience. I walk into most trainings wanting to create a space where people can “go deep” beyond simple skills acquisition. Of course, this does not always happen, or to the degree that I wished. And yet I know I can’t force the issue. To me there is (and was) power in coming at the less tangible (i.e. softer) aspects of collaboration and leadership obliquely. By leading with and offering practical skills, and then grounding this offering in a demonstrated quality of presence, trainers create fertile space for depth, should participants choose to go there. Shining the light too directly on emotional or spiritual elements can risk overexposure (to run with this photographic metaphor) and having folk turn away. In my experience, including our time in CT, subtlety is often the key to helping bring out radiance from and accentuating the presence of others. This is in a sense keeping with the quote attributed to St. Francis that suggests that the most powerful sermons are spoken in deed not words, through example and not exhortation.
And I am curious to hear others’ thoughts and experiences. What have been the keys to your “golden hours”?