Sunday, August 5, 2012

an ode to sleep

Ah, sleep! I cannot praise you enough. How I love a good night's sleep, and I depend on "sleeping on it" to help me make those tough decisions. "Sleeping tight" I can't recommend, but there's nothing better than sleeping like a log or a dog. I woke up this morning with these thoughts because last night, quite simply, was a marvelous night for sleeping.

Cloudy and cool. Fresh northwest breeze, open windows. Cat inside, quiet. Dog as dead asleep as a sack of potatoes. Me, physically tired and nothing much on my mind except ... sleep. I started drifting off while watching some TED talks about simplicity vs. complexity. Hmmm. That'll do it. And when I transferred myself and the dog to the bed, the long night's sleep hit fast. I don't remember the instant it hit, the process of shifting from one state to another, as I sometimes do, being semi-conscious and deliciously aware that we are leaving now, leaving this daily world that can bring us such fuss and turmoil. That slight but very real feeling of separation that may be the mind from the body or a part of the mind or brain from itself, or maybe it's the soul taking off ... All I know is that something shifts, something relaxes, and there's a comforting mystery to it all.

My dreams are sporadic. They don't always stay with me, but once in a while one is particularly vivid, and I'll write it down to capture and try to make sense of it. Recently I realized that there are almost always crowds of people in my dreams, either a street crowd or a stadium crowd. When I lived in the city, crowds were very much a part of my life. My feelings for them are ambivalent. Can't say I like them, but neither do I loathe them or fear them. Now, living in the middle of nowhere, a crowd is a rarity. For a day or two or three I may not see anyone except a neighbor at the post office. The crowd at the weekly farmers market would probably not be a crowd by most people's standard, and even at the grocery store I am seldom standing in line for more than a minute or two. So why are my dreams full of crowds? Full of strangers?

This dog knows how to sleep.
Even if I can't make sense of my dreams, I trust sleep. When I sleep on a problem or decision, I trust whatever my feelings are about the situation upon waking. And if upon waking I still feel undecided, then that's what I am, undecided. It's almost as if my sleep is the person I bounce ideas off of.  "Should I do this? Should I not? What if ...? And then there's always the possibility of ... " I try not to think about whatever it is right before falling asleep - you have to get your wide-eyed, yakety-yak head out of the way - but still I'll go to sleep knowing that I'm asking my sleepy head to weigh in on this matter.

I have my sleepless nights. Sometimes it's a worry or a fret I can't muffle, sometimes it's a full moon, sometimes it's a buzzing mosquito or a scrabbling mouse. I've learned not to fight it, so some nights I give up my beloved sleep and write or watch TV, admire the night sky, bait and smack mosquitoes, set traps for mice. Sleep will come another night. It always does.

And that's because, just as we need air and water, we need sleep. To deprive a person or any animal of sleep is considered by some to be an act of cruelty, even torture. But routinely we deny ourselves and others sleep through noise, light, work, play, acts of violence. Sure, some people don't need the eight-hours-a-night jazz, they do fine on four or five hours, whatever they say, and I've no doubt our actual individual needs vary. But sometimes I wonder if only we could allow ourselves and each other an undisturbed night or day of sleep, and considered sleep to be as precious to life as the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat ... oh, wait. Never mind.

Just sleep well, if you can.