Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Night Owl Thoughts
I have always been a night owl. As a child, there were many times when I did not want to go to bed. I enjoyed hearing the quiet evening drone of adult conversations and stories, even as my eyelids drooped and my head nodded. There was no TV or computer to compete with and even long telephone conversations were rare, so evening entertainment was live and on the spot. Being an active child, with an equally active imagination, my sleep was filled with dreams, some of which were scary. To avoid those, I learned to put off going to sleep as long as I could. Night can be a frightening time for a child.
In college, studying was easier for me late at night, away from the noise and activity that comes with living with a lot of other people. During weekends and holidays, late evenings were spent with friends. At that time girls had a curfew, so when my husband and I were dating he’d bring me home on time, then we’d resume our date on the phone - often into the wee hours of the morning. During the summers my family gathered at the cabin on the lake and we spent evenings visiting and catching up on each others’ lives. If the night was calm and clear, we’d gather on the beach around a fire, or huddle under old quilts on the porch. Nothing compares to a crystal-clear nighttime sky where there are no city lights to dim the brilliant stars and moon.
Adulthood brought other realities. Married less than a year, I spent sleepless nights alone while my husband was clear across the country getting basic training with the Air Force reserves. In the dark I paced the floor of our small home in rural Colorado until flashes of lightning and booming thunder subsided, fearing the fires they might bring. With a child there were late-night trips to an on-call doctor for severe ear infections and waiting up for an errant or runaway teen. Aging parents with their own worries, fears and illnesses led to more sleepless nights. In the quiet and dark, with none of the usual daytime distractions, thoughts and emotions have free rein.
But there is another, less worrisome, side to the night where quiet and darkness become your friend. Concentration and creativity can be sharpened, as can problem-solving and laying of plans. The night is so alive if we only pay attention and be patient. Bats flutter about at dusk, snatching insects in midair. Fish rise to the surface to feed. Mice, voles, shrews, opossums, and raccoons scurry about in search of food, some of which they find beneath our bird feeders. On rare occasions we’ve seen an elusive western flying squirrel perched in one, happily nibbling away. Our streets become animal freeways at night. Lying awake, I’ve heard the distinctive yips and howls of coyotes and the eerie hooting of an owl. We rarely see the deer, but know they steal in to munch on rose, mountain ash and cherry leaves.
Gazing up at Orion, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, and other constellations as they slowly rotate about Polaris, we are awed with the magnitude of the night sky in all its glory. Paddling a small boat on a silent lake while a brilliant full moon rises, humbles us and brings us closer to God - for we are never alone in the night.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
preserve my life, O Lord, according to your laws.
Isaiah 119: 147 - 149