Sunday, December 05, 2004

This and That

I don't know about you, but I have been having trouble getting out of bed these past few mornings. Seems so hard to roll out of the snug warm covers on cold dark mornings doesn't it? This problem along with some books I have been reading, started the old wheels turning in my brain about the scant hours of daylight we get during the winter months, the accompanying long dark nights, the changing of the seasons, and our bio-rhythms. Yes, lots of things spinning around in the old grey matter these days. This blog entry will be a little bit of "this and that", just to put some of these thoughts down in black and white and help me put some order to them. Maybe! Actually, I think this blog might be all over the place too, but let’s start and see where I end up.

It seems soooo much easier to hop out of bed on a bright day in the spring or summer, when the house is warm and full of sunshine, than on these cold dreary winter mornings. Brrrr! I awake, and the battle begins. Hmm, let me see - warm snugly bed vs cold dark room, which do I chose? Now that I don't have to get up and go to work, or get kids ready for school, the choice to roll over and stay in bed is an easy one to make. It is so hard to swing the old feet outside the covers and plant them firmly on the cold floor, on frigid gloomy mornings. I do it with a mumble, grumble, and a growl. Coffee, I need coffee!

Just the other morning, I sat rather bleary-eyed in the family room, trying to wake myself up with that first cup of coffee. I stared blankly out the window and wondered if maybe just maybe, man was really meant to hibernate for the winter? Seeing as I felt like a bit of a bear that morning, I growled as I sipped my coffee and thought I should give that idea more serious consideration. Sleeping the winter away sounded good to me right then.

Once the coffee started to kick in I realized that I didn’t really want to hibernate and miss the beauty of sunshine on fresh fallen snow and all the winter sports that go hand and hand with that, but I did start to think about the long dark winter nights and what life would be like if we didn’t have artificial light. Hmmmmm? What would the world be like if we got up with the sun and went to bed with the sun? Interesting to think about isn’t it? Maybe material for a future blog.

I was reading a book about sleep a little while ago, and in it the author quoted another book, “Acquainted with the night: Insomnia Poems” by Lisa Russ Spaar. Intrigued by the title, I went to my local library to check the book out. I am not bothered by insomnia but AC sometimes is, so I thought it might be a good book to share with him. The book wasn’t in our branch, but the librarian said they would bring it in for me. Imagine my surprise a few days later when I went to pick the book up and discovered it was a book of almost the same title by a different author - “Acquainted with the night: Excursions through the world after dark” by Christopher Dewdney. The jacket liner proclaimed it to be – A journey from twilight to dawn with a passionate observer who is endlessly curious, astonishingly erudite and touched by genius…the book explores the history of night, the life of night, the culture of night, the meaning of night.” Hmm, sounded interesting so I took it home, started to read and was soon hooked. It is a fascinating book and it came my way in such a serendipitous manner. I love it when that happens don’t you? I still eagerly await the other book to see what it is like but for now I am enjoying this book along with the 4 or 5 others I have on the go right now. So many books to read, so little time! Sigh.

Just the other day I discovered another new author, and his delightful book added to and expanded on the thoughts already spinning in my head about the night, sleeping, rest and so on. Isn’t it amazing how that happens sometimes? Oh such a treat to have all these new authors dropped into my lap, like pennies from heaven. I found this latest author quite by accident too.

We drove to the wetlands last Sunday because it was too windy to ride the bikes, and on the way home I turned the car radio on to see what was on Tapestry. I caught the last half of an interview with John O’Donohue, an author, who was talking about his new book “Beauty: The invisible embrace.” What an eloquent amazing man. I had never heard of him before Sunday, but was so impressed by the way he seemed to be talking poetry. That is the only way I can describe how he was conversing with the interviewer. Wisdom and beauty dripped from every sentence he uttered. AC and I looked at each other and wondered how people could talk like that off the top of their heads. We sat quietly in the car to catch every word he said and once we got home, we rushed into the house and turned the radio on in there, to hear the rest of the interview. The very next day I was at the library looking for O’Donohue’s first book “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom” and I put in an order for his new book “Beauty: The Invisible Embrace”. Oh such treasures I have waiting to be read. Riches indeed.

I started reading Anam Cara, and was surprised and delighted to find O’Donohue writing about the night and light and darkness. Amazing how these thoughts dovetailed with all the ideas already circling inside my own head.

O’Donohue says in Anam Cara “The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark….. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.” Ahh, blessed rest.

The night is a gift to us, but we turn our electric lights on and don’t allow ourselves to open that gift and experience that time of rest. We study late into the night, work the night shift, party, watch TV, read – any number of things that eat our time and don’t allow us to be released from the “prison of shape and the burden of exposure”. We don’t take time to look inward and become acquainted with ourselves. How different the world would be if we all had to stop whatever we were doing when it got dark. If we weren’t sleepy we could meditate, contemplate life, talk to each other, sing, look at the stars, the list could go on and on. Can you even imagine a world where no one is sleep deprived?

“Night is a dead monotonous period under a roof; but in the open world it passes lightly, with its stars and dew and perfumes.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Dewdney believes that “the night is neither dead nor monotonous, but a deeply intimate time of day that shapes the rhythms of our bodies, the ebb and flow of our mood, the very pulse of our minds.”

Yes, our day starts the night before, and what we do with our evening sets the tone for the coming day. What we fill our minds with, what we eat, what interactions we have with other people etc. All these things really do set the tone for the next day.

I still don’t know why I wake up feeling like a bear on some morning when I have gotten to bed early the night before and seem to have enjoyed a nice deep, restful sleep. Maybe we just need more sleep during the winter months and some sort of “hibernation” is called for.

So, my thoughts continue to spin and weave on these subjects and I am not quite sure how they all tie together, but I am sure they do. I will delve deeper into these books and keep you posted on the tapestry of thought weaving together.

In the meantime, let me challenge you, (and myself also), to open that gift of the night and enjoy it in all its beauty. Pay attention to our evenings in order to start each day off right, and indulge in the sheer luxury of sleeping in on a cold winter morning or two. I am sure we are meant to do that from time to time. Don't you?

Take care, and be good to yourself.

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