When I was growing up, my bedroom faced north, toward the pond and the gentle swell of a hayfield. And the chicken yard, which meant that any time a raccoon got into the henhouse, I was the one who raised the alert. No wonder I’m such a light sleeper.
I don’t know at what point it happened, but I discovered the beauty of that view, a beauty ever changing, depending on weather and time of day and season. I shoved my bed up in the corner, and from then on I did everything stretched out across the bed, where I could look outside: homework, Journaling, spinning stories. At night, I shoved my pillow in the window frame and watched the sun set, then rolled over and pressed my head against the screen so that I could see as many of the stars as possible. And that was how I fell asleep: listening to the sound of the crickets amid the clover and foxtails.
I also took to having long philosophical discussions with no one, a narrative of my day, and all the people in it. I learned to analyze my own reactions and feelings, and came to new insights. I’m not sure at what point I realized I was praying, not just spouting opinions at the sky. I was actually seeking, in those seemingly one-way conversations with the stars.
A teenager doesn’t place a lot of value on listening prayer. And yet, as I learned the shapes of the constellations, saw them shift through the year, and sent my words winging toward them, stillness crept over me, a stillness that finally succumbed to sleep. And of all the beautiful memories of my childhood, that sense of stillness, which always came on as I grew close to sleep at last, is preeminent among them. It was a stillness of the earth—of insects chirping and coyotes howling and bullfrogs pulsing their low, laid-back grunts. It was a stillness unbroken by human noise, except when an occasional car rumbled down the road in a thick cloud of dust. There were many times when, in the throes of some adolescent moral quandary, I remember envying the simple placidity of the singers’ existence.
I suppose I am thinking of it today, in this very early morning, because we slept with the windows open last night. In the wake of a cold front, the interstate noise succumbed to distance, and all I heard was that familiar hum and pulse of nature, the soundtrack of my childhood. This morning, of course, the traffic noise is back, but all through the night I woke repeatedly, just long enough to reassure myself that the stillness still pulsed outside my window.
I dream of someday returning to a remote place where I never have to listen to jet braking and tires squealing and the incessant roar of humanity. A place where I can once again shove my pillow into the window frame and stare up at the vastness of the universe.
But today, as the sky begins to lighten on this, my thirty-sixth birthday (see, I’mnot afraid of sharing my age), it’s time to seek ot the holy in a different place. One that involves very little stillness or serenity, but an awful lot of sweetness.
In other words, time to rouse the munchkins for school.