– 4 a.m. and random

Grace woke up at 2:51 a.m., went to the bathroom, and said to me from the hall, “I can’t sleep.” I sat with her, and, proving that she can sleep, she was deep into it by a few minutes after 3. And I’m awake.

I tried to go back to sleep. First, I breathed and counted. Then I got up, went down to the living room, and picked up a book. I read a chapter. Then I started looking at my feet, as fascinated by them as an adolescent is. (Are we in an adolescent state when awake at night?) Then I noticed the camera where Lydia had left it, and I wondered if I could take pictures, even without my glasses on. I tried. I couldn’t really see too much in the viewfinder to aim for quality. All I could do was aim.

Feet at 4 a.m.Then I wondered: What if I accidentally took a “good” picture — would it count? Eventually, I would put my glasses back on, and be able to judge my own picture, choose it, crop it, sharpen it, etc., and then say it was good (or not) and all that would be part of what makes it good. However, what if I never put my glasses back on? What if I were blind? And then I started wondering if a person can be a photographer or watercolorist (some medium without a tactile-ness) if you cannot see. Could you be a musician if you cannot hear? Well, you probably could learn to take pictures and compose music and even play music — do the mechanical things. But, you couldn’t experience feedback: see and judge your own pictures, hear and judge your own playing. Could you, though, get some sort of human “guide dog” to give you the feedback, and teach you how to incorporate that feedback? And, if so, could you still be an artist? You’ll be distant from your own feedback — actually, it won’t be your own feedback; it’d be someone else’s.

But, what if you could tell that “guide dog” (or, “artist’s guide”?) what you wanted from your pictures or your music, and they could be trained, by you, to give you a kind of direction in your feedback that’s precisely what you want?

But, you could never test their feedback.

Chair at 4 a.m.What if you decided to trust that feedback giver, and abandon that urge to test, and relinquish those aspects of making something to your guide? (A guide that you, originally, guided?)

Now it’s after 5 and almost time for the house to wake up. You’ll understand if the pictures, and thoughts, are unfinished.

– Awake at night

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, murkyDaphne 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.Eli dance


Thank you, Eli, my night photographer. The pictures are dreams.