I read somewhere once that Freud had a name for it, Mutterschlafen, the light, alert sleep that mothers experience when their children are young and they wake often, needing comfort or milk. Grace has been getting up every night, around 2am, for a couple of weeks now. Possibly it’s allergies or back-to-school anxiety. Usually, she comes to me, and I get up and get her back in bed and sit there for a while until she sleeps again. Then I go back to my own bed and lie there, awake, for hours. Jimmy, sympathetic to my days of interrupted sleep, recently said to Grace, “When you wake in the night, come to my side of the bed, not Mom’s.” She replied, “But Mom is always awake, and you’re not.”
Saturday night, or Sunday morning really, this happened on schedule. I got Grace a tissue for her nose, tucked her in, and tried to go back to sleep. My mind wandered outside to the front yard, where in the day we had dug up some crowded plants, expanded the planting bed, and gave the transplants a wider berth and space to breathe and grow. One shrub we moved — a daphne — we moved against most good gardening advice. Daphne doesn’t like to be moved; she’s particular, and she doesn’t like fertilizer or much water either. And, yet, she’s lovely and smells good in the spring and has a graceful, curving upright form. You can only see that form, however, if she’s not crowded by a forsythia, baptisia, and ornamental cranberry. She was happy in her spot; I wanted to put her on the garden stage. Jimmy did the grunt work, digging around the root ball at the drip line and digging down as much. I advised him to use a spade to pry her out; when the job was on the verge of done, I looked over and saw him grab the daphne by the sturdy, narrow trunk and yank her from the dirt. Ouch. Was I mad? No… not that. The feeling was closer to forlorn. I had already decided that when you get someone to help you, you have to give them room to help in his own way, solving problems as he encountered them. Plus, the daphne branches and leaves looked vigorous, and there were plenty of orangey roots. We dug a new spot for her closer to front walk — a starring role for a beautiful specimen — and shoveled dirt back in. I investigated the hole she left behind to see what I could put in her place, and I saw something that made my heart sink: three severed roots, each the diameter of a human aorta, sticking out of the dirt, snapped, useless, separate. Hours later, in my sleeplessness, I replayed all the gardening hours in my head: Where was the mistake? The initial decision itself? My laissez-faire attitude towards oversight? My absorption in my own tasks? Awake anyway, I thought of Daphne, alone at the curb, possibly wilting. I imagined creeping downstairs, putting on my shoes that seem always to be at the front door, and going outside to, at least, monitor her, although there was no action I could take, other than waiting to see how the damage would affect her. I did not go outside. Crazy thoughts are okay; crazy behavior is not.
With the daphne on my mind, I got back to sleep, using a breathing exercise that Lydia taught me. Inhale, then count on the exhale. Breathe in, “one.” Breathe in, “two.” Breathe in, “three.” Breathe in, “four.” My heart slowed down. All day yesterday, Jimmy and I kept checking on her, looking for signs of what, we don’t know. The daphne’s leaves droop; that may be a sign of damage, or simply a sign of fall.
Thank you, Eli, my night photographer. The pictures are dreams.