Sunday, December 26, 2010

Living in the light, wondering about the night

I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of guy. I've been this way since I was too young to be this way, but that's who I am, so that's who I've been. But while waiting up recently, staring out the windows in the wee hours waiting for Santa (he came but I missed him...again!), I got to wondering what all I miss in the night. What would it be like to sleep during the day and live during the night?

"Moonlight in Vermont"
With everyone else asleep, it'd feel like I had the world to myself. That thought has a certain appeal to an introvert like me. Granted, I love a bright day and the playfulness -- and predictability -- of sunlight. Could the reflected light of the moon, on nights when there's enough moon to matter, fill my needs? Or would my needs change? Would my vision adjust to seeing in the dark, my hearing become more acute to pick out softer night sounds? Would I start to think differently?

This isn't the first time I've speculated about what I'm missing as I sleep. A strong childhood memory is a sleepover with a friend when I was in elementary school. We snuck out in the middle of a warm summer night and rode our bikes through streets that were busy during the day but deserted at 2 AM, pretending we were being hunted and chased. I probably played similar games hundreds of times during the day, but I don't remember those, only this one time at night.

My strongest memory of my home in Dracut, Massachusetts, is a night near the end of my five years there. Normally one to sleep undisturbed all night, I couldn't drift off one warm summer night. My bedroom was on the second story, my windows wide open, and I sat and looked out on the calm night for hours, spotting owls and tiny movements in the brush, watching the moon and moon shadows, the beauty of nature in shades of blue and gray.

In Vermont, summer nights still occasionally pulled me to the windows or porch, but winter nights also drew me from bed. Moonlight reflected off the snow, and even the inside of the cabin would glow with it. I'd look out and spot deer and moose, sometimes rambling within a few yards of my cabin. I'd hear coyotes and sometimes the tiny sounds of mice stirring within the walls. Every sight and sound seemed so BIG in the night, even the smallest rustling or the slightest movement I barely noticed in the woods.

Then I'd return to bed and to sleep and wake in the bright light of a new day, a time I loved then and love now. But things had changed. Maybe it's only because it all looked familiar again, but nothing seemed quite as large. I'd begin my morning routines, start my day, and focus on what I always focused on in the light. But it felt like I'd lost a little magic.

So I wonder about the night. Maybe that's what I'm supposed to do. Shifting my life twelve hours might only make the night mundane and kill a fun and compelling curiosity. Or maybe I should take action and see what lurks in the dark?


  1. There are times, during summer, where I absolutely love and worship the darkness, of standing outside in my garden under assault by a heavy southeaster while watching the moon peer through from ripped clouds...

    and yet... Midwinter, where I leave home in the darkness and return in the darkness, and a great sorrow weighs me down.

  2. I remember those short days when I only saw my house in the light on weekends. I hated it in Massachusetts, but when I lived in the rural woods of Vermont, I... only disliked it. Ha. I enjoyed being outside more in a rural environment, so I'd play with the dog in the snow and even chop my wood by moonlight.

  3. I love the picture. You must be discovering a whole world in your new setting. I think that's marvelous. Happy night dwelling, Keith.