Friday, April 6, 2012

The Art of Sleep

There are nights when I have difficulty getting enough sleep. I'm not feeling unduly stressed about anything in particular, but my mind is so revved from the day's activities and what I want to accomplish the next day and the next... that sleep becomes the bashful child who can't be coaxed out of her hiding place.

During summers or on long weekends when I was a kid, my intrepid grandmother would gather as many of her grandchildren as she could fit into her car and trek us to her family's uninhabited heritage ranch, short on modern amenities but teeming with the spacious peace born of sheer isolation.

After a full day riding horses, exploring far flung pastures, fishing, and poking around in old barns, my cousins, siblings, and I scouted for a place to bunk down for the night.

My favorite was the sleeping porch, set off to the east side of the house and adjacent to a large white cistern, full of the rainwater funneled in from the tin roof. If I was quick, I got dibs on the porch swing and would carefully spread my blanket and pillow on it.




My cousins and siblings might take one of the hammocks that used to languidly swing there, not even needing a blanket in the cocoon of the form fitting fabric. The ones slower to stake out their claim ended up on a quilt on the floor, still comfortable in the way they are before age demands the comfort of a supportive mattress.


The littlest one or two slept with my grandma in her designated bed, the one that had belonged to her grandparents.


The lack of air conditioning did not bother anyone, even in the blazing evenings of summer. The window at the foot of her bed stayed open, cajoling a sweet coolness from the delicate night breeze.

Once settled in, the ballad of the night owls began in a velvety chorus as they set off on their nocturnal search for food. The cicadas and crickets chirred their way deep into the night, singing their hymn of thanks at the disappearance of the sun.

The horses, pastured just 20 feet from the porch, nickered their throaty refrains. The coyotes' howl picked up the tempo but was not frightening. On the contrary, it was a reassuring underlay to the symphony that surrounded us.

The jasmine and the honeysuckle intertwined and released their gifts into the night, caressing away any lingering nettles from the day.

The body slowly relaxed and stretched out, muscle fiber by muscle fiber, nerve by nerve; lengthening, loosening, and unkinking. The mind followed the lead of the body, until sleep sang her grand aria behind closed eyelids.

I don't need an Ambien. Just give me a pillow and an old porch swing.


74 comments:

  1. I would dearly love to have that experience every day instead of the modern convenience we feel are so necessary. Great Post

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    1. Odie: Maybe that's what we need in our sleep deprived society. Back to the basics~

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  2. I'm so there, Shelly! That last paragraph put me in a trance. It reminded me of my own childhood. We had no air conditioning and never gave it a second thought. On hot summer nights I fell asleep with an electric fan blowing on me. My brother used to go downstairs to the basement and stretch out bareback on the cool tile floor. That hard floor is where he slept many nights. I used to consider it a treat to sleep in a hammock or in a sleeping bag on the floor - anywhere other than my boring bed. Everything seemed like an adventure to me. Equipped with nothing more than my imagination or perhaps a ball to bounce, indoor and outdoor play produced giddy delight. Why does it take so much more to please us as the years roll on? Indeed, it takes more and more just to maintain the status quo and keep us on a even keel. It's the law of diminishing return and peace of mind comes to those who learn to defeat it by embracing life's simple pleasures. Happy Easter to you and your family, dear Shelly!

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    1. Shady: I firmly feel we have cluttered our lives with so much that we lose that basic peace and quietness of the mind we need to regenerate. There's nothing like the comforting sound of a small fan blowing at night.

      Have wonderful Easter with your family!

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  3. This was so fun to read! When we first moved to Tucson, the coyotes scared me and I would check all the windows and doors to make sure they were locked, but after that first year I opened the windows at night to listen for the howling up and down the wash. It is a very fun sound and I miss it. There are plenty of coyotes where we live now, but they are up in the mountains, away from my bedroom window.

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    1. Nancy: As long as the coyotes are off in the distance,I don't mind them. When they start encroaching in our yard and menacing the baby animals, I mind them greatly!

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  4. Sleep, my ever-elusive quest...*sigh* However, this was a lovely read, reminding me on a chilly day that summer is just around the corner. We have an ancient 100+ yr-old home that boasts of no air-conditioning but a huge front porch with double doors. We spend long languid afternoons that roll seemlessly into evenings, all the doors propped open, firefly lanterns adrift...perhaps I will consider making the porch more private for sleeping this year. :)

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    1. Chantel: Oh, that porch sounds like heaven! The fireflies...I miss them. I so hope you can let that wonderful porch be your cradle every now and then and that it will work its wonders in you~ :)

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  5. Shelly,
    Once again you have woven an absolute sense of time and place that the reader can experience as though we were settling quietly into that porch swing.

    Wonderful writing,Shelly.
    Have a blessed Easter....Marsha

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    1. Marsha: Thank you, my friend! I wish you a quiet porch swing and wonderful Easter blessings!

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  6. A pillow and a porch swing sounds lovely -- reminding me of sweet, languid evenings lying in the porch swing at my grandparents' farm in Kansas! Your wonderful post brought up so many memories -- and also a very important point: as we age, sleep becomes more elusive. I hope perhaps this memory from your childhood may bring you some peaceful nights!

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    1. Dr. Kathy: I so wish age didn't rob us of sleep- I'd rather be hungry than sleep deprived! Thankfully, it doesn't happen too often, but in my mind, I'm often thinking of that old porch swing!

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  7. Ooooh, love your new header picture!

    Such a relaxing post...I, have no problem sleeping, because at this time in my life, I get so little I guess!!

    I think maybe you should be shopping for a porch swing!!

    Happy Easter to you and your family!

    PS would love to have seen your Passion Play last night!!

    PSS would also love to hear about your diet, the no bread diet--I'm intrigued.

    God bless

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    1. Jamie: Thanks- I took it at my favorite beach about a month or so ago. Love the beach!

      I imagine you are way more sleep deprived than I am right now, so I'm glad you don't have trouble getting it when you can.

      A porch swing would be great- we're looking! And, the Passion Play has been great- two more perfomances. I was interviewed on the TV news this morning about it- glad that's over!

      I gave up bread, biscuits, tortillas, etc. several years ago when I began to lose weight. It's just easier now to keep them out.

      Have a wonderful Easter with your wonderful family!

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  8. Beautiful and hypnotic. Your velvety words nearly hypnotized me into sleep. It's obvious that you were writing about your 'Happy Place." I bet you close your eyes and travel here when times get rough. Have a relaxing weekend.

    CC

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    1. Stephen: I do love that place- the pics are from when we were there for a family reunion last weekend. Thank you for your kind words!

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  9. Hi Shelly, nice post - it's great to be able to sleep like that. Remember my times staying at grannies house, slept so good there :) Have a Happy Easter!

    Eva

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  10. Eva: Wonderful times! Thank you, and have a wonderful Easter yourself~

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  11. I go days without sleeping and stay exhausted. I have had that problem for a few years now, but it is just getting worse. I did sleep better when I owned a place with a lot of land and stayed busy.

    Maybe the city life isn't for me, but I like it. Great post!

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    1. Crack You Whip: Oh, I feel for you! That chronic exhaustion is a terrible feeling. I hope it somehow eases up for you~

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  12. It does sound so peaceful up there, Shelly. I would have rushed for that porch swing too to sleep in; it does sound so cosy; I bet it was such a special time for you all to be together like that, wonderful memories to share with us!

    Happy Easter!

    betty

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    1. Betty: We were all just there last weekend for a family gathering and it was great getting to talk about those old times. Thank you, and have a wonderful Easter!

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  13. Gosh this story is so tranquil it almost wants you to curl up and go to sleep now.. That bed!! Sooo lovely and imagine it coming from your grandmothers mother.. what a great family you have Shelly..
    Did you know? that two magnesium taken at night help you to relax and sleep? They also help the heart, cramping, and many others things.... research "Magnesium the miracle mineral."
    God Bless your EASTER and many it be so special, with Gods Grace abounding! xxxxxxx

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    1. Crystal Mary: I am truly blessed with the family I have. I will look for the magnesium! That should be a great help. Have a blessed Easter, my friend!

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  14. ...the bashful child that can't be coaxed out of her hiding place.

    Only the beginning of a beautiful essay. The imagery is astoundingly wonderful.

    {HAPPY EASTER!}

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    1. vanilla: Thank you! Happy Easter to you both!

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  15. That sounds so perfect, Shelly. We didn't have air conditioning in my grandfather's house in northern MI either and I often wonder how we got by without it but it didn't seem to matter much to me then. His house was on Lake Huron and I used to fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. Thank you for bringing that memory back to me. I really enjoyed this post. You are such a great writer and I love the new look of your blog. That header photo is gorgeous!

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    1. Jenn June: What bliss! To fall asleep with the waves sounding- oh, how wonderful! What special memories you have!

      Thank you! I took the pic at my favorite beach a month or so ago- can't wait to go back!

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  16. lovely post.you reminded me of staying at my aunt's as a child. so hot,waiting for the southerly buster.

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    1. IWASNTBLOGGEDYESTERDAY: Oh, waiting for those winds to pick up...how I remember that!

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  17. Ahhh the sleep challenge. I think it is a curse for many women. The brain whirs and we keep trying to unwind. And don't even mention what happens if we fall asleep early and are awakened. It's all over for me.
    I spent some summers in Bay St Louis and we had a sleeping porch on that house. Nothing was lovelier than falling asleep to bay breezes and the smell of salt tinged air lifted up in cool breezes. Yes sleeping porches are lovely spaces and great for sleeping.

    Hugs~

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    1. Sush: I LOVE going places where I can smell the salt water and feel the ocean breezes! How wonderful. I think we just need to move next to the Gulf- then I'll be able to sleep well every night!

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  18. Ahhh. How refreshing you make it all sound. I would love to have spent a night there as well after a full day of ranch play. Good clean fun with dirt between my toes! The best kind.

    This made me sleepy. I don't think I even need an Ambien tonight. :)

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    1. Crystal: Ha! I'm hoping if I read this to myself tonight, I can put myself to sleep!

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  19. That was such a wonderfully written piece. I thought I was watching an episode of The Waltons for a minute! Seriously though Shelly, it sounds an absolutely idyllic way to spend your childhood. Things were so much simpler then. Like Tom, (being slightly older!!) I remember such simple pleasures in my childhood. These days, the little ones are always glued to some screen or another, playing all sorts of games, which I'm sure doesn't do their little minds (or their eyes) any good. And then they say they're 'bored'! They don't seem to be able to just use their imagination any more,which is such a shame. Lovely post and a good read.

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    1. Thisisme: It was a much simpler time, and it truly saddens me that kids have to rely on so many artificial means to keep themselves entertained. Being outside and experiencing all the wonders out there should be more than enough.

      Thank you, my friend!

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  20. Hello,
    i really like your blog
    I wil visit it everyday and i hope that we will be friend
    me too I have a blog but it's written for a great part in french
    have a nice day

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    1. tunisian: Thank you for stopping by! I will visit your blog, although I admit I know little French. Perhaps I can find an online translator to help me~

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  21. Oh how I dearly hold dear my memories of those nap days as a wee child sleeping at Grandma's with her windows open and the chenile bedspreads...precious

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    1. Rhonda: Those are the sweetest memories!

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  22. What beautiful imagery you paint with your words. I was in that moment, that sacred place...and it filled me with peace. Happy Easter my dear friend!

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    1. kneesandpaws: Oh, thank you, Jenny! And a wonderful, happy Easter to you and yours, my friend!

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  23. HAPPY RESURRECTION CELEBRATION!!!!

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    1. Rhonda: And the very same to you, friend!

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  24. I loved reading this post - I'm jealous of those memories. Sounds like a magical experience. I so relate to the sleep issue, though. Really,all I need is a porch and a swing?
    Karen

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    1. Karen: And a pillow! Thanks for stopping by~

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  25. what beautiful childhood memories..I can just see what you write!!
    Happy Easter!!!

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    1. momto8: Thank you and Happy Easter to you!

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  26. That place looks and sounds heavenly! What a lovely memory.

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    1. lindylou: It truly is. Thank you!

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  27. Sweet, calm, memories.
    Love that.

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  28. It seems we must travel back in time to find out peace. We'll probably all get a chance at that as we discover we must shed our baubles and conveniences. The lucky will learn and not be resentful. Thanks for sending me to sleep on the back porch.

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    1. Murr: Those baubles and conveniences add such weight to our souls that it's a wonder we can even walk. Hope your back porch sleep was satisfying!

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  29. Oh, Shelly, I Can see your grandmas place, the hammocks swinging, the smells, it took me there. Thanks. I think of my grandmas porch with it's hanging swing, all screened in.

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    1. Jill: There's no place like those old porches, is there?

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  30. So..... when can I come and visit? Blessings to you dear one.

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    1. JBR: Anytime, my friend! Thank you!

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  31. Even reading your post made me feel tranquil. Beautiful.

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  32. Oh, you brought me right back to the farm with that, Shell. My grandparents' farm: the wind coming through the tall pines, the cows mooing, haphazardly, the crickets... I can smell those line-dried sheets from here...

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl: Mmmm- line dried sheets- what a great scent memory...miss that-

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  33. Sorry I'm late - Beautiful memories, Sherry! I think sleeping on the swing would have been my favorite spot also. I love the sounds of the night.

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    1. Belle: Those sounds are truly beautiful, aren't they?

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  34. Sounds like a wonderful experience I wish I had such memories you are lucky........

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    1. Jo-Anne: I really do feel incredibly blessed~ :)

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  35. Um, porch swing, pillow, AND jasmine and honeysuckle would do it for me!

    I hear you though. I get totally wound up from all day and then think about what tomorrow's bringing. It's hard to let go and just sleep sometimes.

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    1. Lydia: Those scents are still heaven for me!

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  36. What a marvelous memory to have. I think I'll go to sleep tonight dreaming of warm summer evenings and cicadas. Beautiful post.

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    1. Gene Pool Diva: I love those summer evening sounds...so soothing. Thank you!

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