Q: When is an afternoon?
A: The afternoon is when the morning is old, and it can be pleasant. Those are the afternoons of the sun on shore, or the dappled sun on timothy and clover, or the sun like white gold in a glory above the green bower of the trees on a hobbit’s walk you take under the forest eaves. Those pleasant afternoons are latter rains washed up on a freshening breeze, rinsing the dust out of the air, even the ozone crack of an anvil cloud drenching the land in the exultation of titans, "angels of rain and lightning." Those, too, are the more frequent afternoons, of still warmth, diffuse sun in a sky becalmed, where time remembers that it sails under the age, and then again, under the everlasting, when nothing happens much except the Word.
But there are other afternoons when the morning dies. The light, while on, is wan and bleached, the heat desiccates, a heat without warmth, a mottled, blearing sky, illumination enough for blasphemy. Such afternoons are the appointments of Apollo letting fly his arrows of plague, when the leprous doom arches into the human genome. Distant bells toll in the fetid dust. A dead tree is erected, with an offering of despair.
Some afternoons cry out for the night to end them, for the earth to quake to fend them away.
Thank heaven, there will come a Morning.