My father routinely lies awake at night and this I do too. As a child, sleepless with worry about a different or unclear tomorrow, Dad from the doorway tells me two techniques. One, to think about every holiday we’ve had, sorting them, clerk-like, into sequence and then filling in the detail. The other to focus on each of my toes and feel them falling asleep. How I do then find sleep is in marvelling that my father has techniques, and wondering how he came by.
Adult, I’ve refined a tactic of my own. I think about nests and burrows and homes in the banks of rivers: of spaces under sheds and flowerpots lodged in the undergrowth – where all within birds and small mammals are bunked and hunkered down safely asleep.
Un-nocturnal fox cubs in a hole curl up and huff into their pillowy brushes. A mouse family, mum, dad, a couple of kids, bed into a box up high on an outhouse shelf, and wren friends on a teapot sleepover are winding down the chatter to the occasional last giggle or a too-hilarious fart.
These are my sleeping pals. Cosy, yes, and kinda cute, twee even, but thumpingly cosmic*, deliberately out of doors and close by the rain; Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, whose contentment is sharpened by risks they are managing well. They are garden and woodland hiders, hobos, fortunate and wily, and they are now sleeping brilliantly because they have, for tonight at least, found a place. And when I’m certain it’s a good place, that all danger is bettered and trickstered, then I can bed down too, and huff, and know that I’ve found mine, safe and by her side.
*I woke again at 6 and dug out the old book:
And so when we examine a nest, we place ourselves at the origin of confidence in the world, we receive a beginning of confidence, an urge toward cosmic confidence. Would a bird build its nest if it did not have its instinct for confidence in the world?
Being starts with well-being. When a philosopher considers a nest, he calms himself by meditating on the subject of his own being in the calm world being. And if we were to translate the absolute naivete of his daydream into the metaphysical language of today, a dreamer might say that the world is the nest of mankind.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958, France. Chapter 4, Nests.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012.