It is 3:24 AM. It is a chilly 39 degrees outside and although there is a beautiful waning gibbous moon it remains very dark on the ground. When I step outside to look at the stars I see Orion, faithfully in the southern hemisphere confirming that it is the latter half of the year.
There is a quiet stillness to the very early morning that most will never experience. It is a time when one can be alone with themselves and their thoughts without the innumerable distractions that come when everyone and everything awakes.
I go to bed at 8:00 PM, wake up in the middle of the night and then often go back to bed for a few more hours. I’ve learned that this may be the most natural pattern – The myth of the eight-hour sleep.
“Don Quixote followed nature, and being satisfied with his first sleep, did not solicit more. As for Sancho, he never wanted a second, for the first lasted him from night to morning.” Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615)
Along with the chilly temperature the only other thing that could make this moment better is if there was freshly fallen snow on the ground, softly illuminated by the light of the moon. That is a magical landscape that is also reserved only for those who awake in the middle of the night. Sometimes the moonlight is so strong that the reflection off the snow illuminates the outside almost as clearly as day in a soft pale glow. It is this scene, nestled away in childhood memories, that make me miss Ohio around this time of year. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas without snow and frigid temperatures.
This reminds me of the coldest December I’ve ever experienced. I had a 7:30 AM calculus class at Ohio State and to make it on time would have to be up by at least 5:30. Sometimes the temperature would be so cold that my car would not start and I had to resort to this contraption you’d stick in the oil to keep the engine warm. I’d then drive and have to park at the ‘off campus’ location and wait for the shuttle bus. Sometimes it would be too cold to wait outside at the bus stop, so I’d wait in my car until I saw it coming, then jump out and run over to the bus stop.
My morning did not improve from there as this was a difficult course and was necessary to gain admittance to business school. It was known as a ‘weed out’ class where the majority of students would fail. The number of students who wanted to go into business outnumbered the amount of places in the college of business. There were a few in that class who were taking it for the third time and this frightened me. I spent many hours in the tutor room and my only real memory of that is one of the tutors had halitosis. He’d come up close to me and start explaining and I actually had to hold my breath it was so bad. I felt sorry for him as that must be a very difficult thing to deal with, especially in relationships.
The time is now 4:03 and I feel the desire for a second sleep coming on. But if I stay awake that gives me three more hours to do activities I’d like to do. Nobody tells you this but once you have kids the day belongs entirely to them and you cannot do the things you’d like to do: read a book, take a nap, clean, re-arrange things, go to the gym, go for a bike ride, be by yourself, none of these things are possible. It is only when everyone is asleep that you have the freedom to do as you wish without any guilt.