From my bed at night, the world as experienced through window blinds seems a finely wrought, haunting place. The sky is silent and deep. The streets rustle with animal and people feet, each voice clearer than in daylight. In my urban neighborhood, night stories unfold like moon flowers, brief and mysterious, perhaps desperate or passionate. I follow them as I lie awake at two, three, four in the morning after something awakens me–a couple calling to each other across a street, cats in love, a siren slashing through the darkness, the swish of many bicycle tires. Or the past comes alive: someone loved and lost. A small replay of grandchildren singing to me. The peculiar drama of a murky nightmare. Pain in a place I had ignored in daytime that now berates me. But I am at ease in the middle of the night, so give in to its essence. I settle in and drift as though on a sturdy boat.
The window is left ajar in all weather so air can flow in and out. The blinds are usually shut against any light, but when sleep does not reclaim me, I open them, as well, just enough to see the elements at play, the roof lines of neighboring houses and an apartment building. That is, if I put my glasses on. Without contacts or glasses everything blurs like watercolors on paper. Still, myopia may be responsible for my being at ease in the dark in the first place; I learned sightless navigation from an early age. Night always called me, a secret place of calm and curiousness, senses altered by lack of light but increased quiet, the mind fully alert. It is like walking into a vast space where no one else seems present but things still happen. I am surprised, and usually take comfort.
I could read when insomnia strikes, and occasionally I do, taking the first book off the stacks beside the bed. And I sometimes am taken over by a poem or the first lines of a new short story. But a greater attraction is the sound of the wind as it barrels up the Columbia River Gorge and stirs up the sweet gum and big leaf maple branches. There are the delicate scents of pansies and lemony gardenia drifting from the balcony garden. Roses have been known to intoxicate long after summer. I inhale, lean against the pillows. The bands of sky I see are lighter, sooner that I expect, ebony turning to a deep dove grey, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of the North star if I raise the blinds higher.
As a child I waited for the first snow, going to sleep in great anticipation, the air sharp and clean and full of promise. Now, long gone from Michigan, I wait for the first deluge of our Northwest autumn. Last week I heard it arrive, at first a gentle crescendo so faint I had to sit very still to be convinced it was rain sliding off the roof, splashing against the asphalt. I felt the air breathing. The birds stopped what little they were doing and held fast to branches. Then the rain began to vocalize, fat tear shapes crashing all around like they couldn’t wait to get to earth. Then they joined together in a veil of wetness, falling upon all, hitting my screen sideways, cool spray jumping onto my hands as they pressed against the screen. I nearly got out of bed and went to stand in the triumph of it all.
So the rains had truly, finally begun. I closed my eyes and heard the rapturous sound, smelled the loamy-mineral scent. Sensed the red and yellow dying leaves being happily pressed against dirt and cement. Tasted the richness of rain like a balm. The dark earth welcomed the cascade, and the whole night was transformed.
The sky, the rain found me in the darkness and we then kept each other company as though old lovers. Brushed velvet sky with its divine embrace, rain a sashay of glistening sound, light that sifted the darkness of this autumnal night. Relief of rain rain rain rain rain