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.