Sleep is a kind of “little death.” We are strangely vulnerable as we sleep, heads thrown back, neck exposed, soft belly available to any ravening beast. We build our shelters, our towns, our walled cities, and say it is for commerce or safety from war but I think it was only a way to keep the wolves from our bellies at night. We get tired and need to sleep and what kind of plan is that, I ask you? I would get so much more done if I didn’t need to get ready for bed, sleep, spend time waking up and undoing the hairdo my bed has given me.
But sleep gives us dreams. In dreams we repair the trauma of the day, gird up our loins for the work ahead. In dreams we sometimes fly.
I can imagine that dreams were the first indication to some distant relative of mine and yours that the world was not as firm as it might seem. I can imagine that our clever relative (an old woman sitting by the fire, holding a sickly grandchild and trying to get drops of broth into its mouth) thought about what she had seen at night and concluded that there was something outside of her self, something she might have discourse with. She might not have seen such a clear distinction between the dream-world and her own world—might have concluded that death itself was just a kind of waking up. She would have shared this with her family when that sickly infant died, when she herself lay down to do the same.
Every morning we awaken to a new world, “. . .a new day with no mistakes in it yet." - as Anne of Green Gables described it. We invite our new world to enter our lives in any number of ways. With coffee and the Times. With MSNBC and a litany of woe. With prayer and outstretched hands. With boxes of cereal and bananas and finding shoes and lunch boxes. Perhaps we pause to reflect on what we have learned as we slept.
And as we find our pajamas and brush our teeth before sleeping, perhaps we reflect on what we have learned through the waking hours, for we have surely learned something new.
when we are left alone
in a strange and loveless land—
then do we wake a little to the light beyond light,
like glittering fish, leaping
to taste the ineffable sweetness