Sometimes in the night

Sometimes in the night I awake with my heart pounding, a flurry of worries: Did I remember to pay the earthquake insurance? Did I shut the gate after I wandered over to visit the blackberry blossoms…or have the deer now nibbled all my broccoli down to nubs? What about that thing my daughter asked earlier, did I answer it the way I should have?

All of these such are small things compared to some of the nightmares that my husband needs to wake me from, shadows rising and reminding. And then the relief–tangible, real, him there beside me, his hand on my shoulder, everything safe again.

It’s true that if you’ve forgotten something during daylight hours, nighttime rises up to remind you to do the little things to ensure your list is complete and your lights stay on, and it prompts you to ask the big questions, too. Worry can be a powerful motivation. It’s an important part of progress and evolution. In fact, reflecting on it now, I see that I’ve managed to carve out entire futures in the nightscape of my worry. I’ve also managed to solve odd problems in the night after waking with a lightning bolt of recognition, corralling the solution on a scrap of paper to remind me in the morning.

When nightmares hit, nighttime can be a grand mirror, a dark pond with a too-big reflection. It can be a time of skating close to an otherworld of time, one where you try to turn the dial back and do things differently, the night haunting you with that reminder of the inability to manipulate time and do any such thing, the regret so painful that you wake with a face wet with tears.

But night can surprise you, too. It can show you a wasteland so bleak that the reality of your real own life is a gift, the surprise of it enough to make you feel gratitude all day long for the simplest things.

I remember one time walking with a friend after a tragedy and listening to the birds sing. It struck my heart that there isn’t anything more abject in ones moment of despair than to understand that life goes on even after deep loss. And yet, the birds will sing, and isn’t that a beautiful reminder?

As I wake from the nightscape of nightmare or motivation, before I even open my eyes, I try to kindle a flame in my heart for a vision of the future I can’t see yet–a bright thing on the horizon, a seed yet planted. And as the morning the light filters in through the windows, I watch the trees begin their etchings against their drape of sky and the sparrows start their dance. Small wonders start to unfurl like flowers in the morning mist: My husband, sipping his coffee and sketching his transient visions. The chickens stirring. The cats beginning their traipse around the periphery of our fence line, sticking to what they know but always venturing a little further afoot. Somewhere, an otter slides down into the creek bed below. The red-tailed hawk couple begins crying out its hello, hello, hello.

I try to always remember to tell myself to shrug off the dark outline of night and start ticking off the list of reminders my subconscious delivered. Every day is a new day. Every day a fresh start. Every day a chance to remind myself of who I want to be and how I want to get there. Do what you want, drums the woodpecker. Where is it? calls the hawk. Don’t worry, I can show you! dances the sparrow.

I can almost hear the squirrels starting to stir, their work ahead so clear. If I could chat with them, I think they would tell me: You’re overthinking it. Go for the nuts. Stay up in the branches and swing through the day. Plug your nose and leap. Scratch out a cozy nest. Stay limber. Eat well. Save for the future. Scold only when necessary. And run fast.

If we can learn from the gifts of shadow and light, we’re able to see the balance. The need for a bit of worry to keep you on task and for big open-hearted positive energy pouring into your sense of wonder and curiosity. Move forward. Zero in on what matters and let the rest go. The gift of night shows us that we can shrug off the shadows and start fresh, every day.

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