Tag Archives: Insomnia

An Insomniac & The Hour of the Wolf: Everyday Magic, Day 431

I’m sure I came out of the womb ready to stay up late, and since I was born late at night, I had a good start already. My mother tells me I didn’t sleep much as a baby, and even left in the crib to cry it out — the parenting protocol of the time — I rarely cried myself to sleep. Instead, I cried until I threw up, and then kept crying. As a kid, I remember being wide awake late every night, often listening to Cousin Brucie on a little transistor radio beneath the covers. Even when I did fall asleep, I would often sleep-walk, waking always on the couch, my eyes fixed on Johnny Carson on the TV. My mother was used to this, but it freaked out my dad. So it’s no wonder that sleep is a tricky train to catch for me even now.

It’s not that I don’t like sleep. I love sleeping, especially when exhausted. I mean, is there anything more luxurious and satisfying than lying down between flannel sheets with the stars out the window, the cat purring nearby and the pillow so welcoming? I’m also good at dreaming, and often have many vivid forays through houses with secret rooms, parallel cities where I’m looking for hot bagels or interesting travels that mix up the geography of the awake world.

Yet sleep is difficult for me to attract easily. Even if I do all the right things — exercise vigorously, avoid caffeine after mid-morning, do work I love, get fresh air — it may or may not come. Sometimes when I do all the wrong things, it comes easily. Getting to sleep also doesn’t mean staying asleep. I wake early and often, years of waking for crying babies having honed my insomnia in ways only accentuated by menopause. When I do tunnel into it at just the right angle, I can sleep deeply for many hours. That right angle (and hour) is not something I can plan though.

Yet I also see that there are certain gifts to waking or still being awake in the middle of the night. I was struck by this article — “Appointment with the Wolf” by Clark Strand in Spirituality and Health Magazine — although Strand names the hour or so when we’re awake in the middle of the night as the time our fears grow largest, and we’re closest to death. He suggests that we’re awake not by mistake but by a calling to meditate, pray, contemplate. Strand started using this time in his life to go outside and talk to god, “green meditation,” he called it, based on an esoteric Jewish tradition written about by Hasidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810) to restore “the hour of the wolf.”

Although he wasn’t Jewish, when he contacted an elder rabbi, the rabbi said to him,

“Wouldn’t it be wiser to say that this ‘hour of the wolf’ you speak of — this luminous reality — well, isn’t it really as old as God? After all, it’s too old and too big to belong to human beings, isn’t it? Maybe it belongs to the wolf.”

I don’t know that I’ll be stepping outside all that often when the wolf calls (and in Kansas, it might best be called the Hour of the Coyote), but I like the idea to seeing these awake moments in the deep dark as a time the soul can speak…..and listen. Instead of thrashing around over the difficulty of snagging a snooze, I’m thinking about how to submit to my own nature and the nature of the world around me.

Moonstruck All Night: Everyday Magic, Days 348-349

The moon was spectacular at midnight, 1 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 3:22 a.m., and even 4:19 a.m. So spectacularly large, bright and glowing increasingly golden orange as it set in the west that it wouldn’t get me sleep until well after 4 a.m. Thanks to a whole lot of coffee, some chocolate and power nap, I’m awake now to write the tale, and to share this poem that I wrote on my back deck, in the wee hours, as I watched the moon dive under an great lake of clouds and, 30 minutes later, emerge even brighter. I’ve paired this with another of Stephen Locke’s astonishing photos.

Finding the Moon
Did you stop now that you found the moon

almost full, floating west across a small clearing

between the dampening clouds? The large and open-hearted wind

the heat lightning occasional and distance. Did you still yourself

in the lawn chair on the deck and stop waiting for one desire

to name itself or another to dissipate?

Where have you been, the beautiful world asks,

wind furrowing your hair as your night gown swims

around your happy skin. The moon rolls under

a cloud the size of a great lake, the light leaves

in increments, and now, no excuse.

Just one star to the south, one star to the west.

Shadow on shadow, light on light. Lightning bugs

thread their stories through the cedars, which hold all seasons

of what can be seen or not. Now nothing but the deep

charcoal of the windy night. Now everything, the flashlight

shining the way west for the moon, and then, the full light.

Why have you spent yourself ignoring this?

The best moment of your life, every moment.

What Not To Think About When Trying to Fall Asleep: Everyday Magic, Day 266

Here’s a partial list:

  • If it’s worth waking up early and making gluten-free pancakes from scratch.
  • How many cars I’ve owned in my life.
  • How many hours it would take to drive from here to Traverse City, Michigan to visit an old friend?
  • How many yards of fabric it would take to make new curtains?
  • What bills need to be paid by when.
  • What are all the big and little deadlines facing me in the next month?
  • How to love Woody Allen movies while still being freaked out by his personal life.
  • How to prepare chicken new ways.
  • What are all the movies Jodie Foster has starred in?
  • What lurks in the hearts of people who incite evil?
  • If dogs could fly, would they completely rule cats?
  • If cats could fly, would they rule the world?
  • Who is cuter in the film Witness: Harrison Ford, Alexander Godunov, Viggo Mortensen or Kelly McGillis?
  • What makes lightning bugs glow (besides sex)?
  • Where have all the people I know who died gone?
  • How many hours would it take to drive to Colorado at 77 mph hile guzzling iced water and popping M & M’s?
  • If I fall asleep at this moment, how many hours of sleep would I get, minus waking up two or three times?