It’s been a very white and gray week. It’s early morning as I type this. I’ve been trying to take some photos of a project, but the daylight is bright and flat at the same time. It just keeps snowing, but not in joyful amounts, just in the kind of amounts that snarl rush hour traffic and pack down firmly onto the streets, rutless. I only have a few spare moments, but I thought I’d at least start to write a bit under the original title of “random lately bits”. I have lots of little, insignificant things I’m thinking about, but these days are long long long, and I hardly get the chance. When my alarm goes off before six, it takes an extra mental push to both acknowledge the next seventeen hours, and to embrace all that will transpire during them.
M slips out of bed long before me, and my body wakes to his absence just enough to burrow into the warm spot he leaves behind. I stretch out in a diagonal swath across the bed, into my favorite position, face down with my toes pointed to the floor and just hooked over the edge of the bed. I used to be afraid of things, animals, monsters, stealthy criminals, under my bed, just waiting for an exposed ankle to attack. I’m not nervous about those things anymore. I always slept on my back, head slightly elevated and facing the door, ready. No longer, not when I can slide out of a warm tub and underneath a down comforter, stretching my arms alongside my ears until they brush the bars above my head, hooking my feet over the opposite end of the mattress, face planted into the sheet until I’m forced to turn to the side for air, a reluctant concession. He’s nearly silent in the bathroom in the morning, and I’m nearly asleep, but awake enough to think about what’s changed in me. I’m curious about how this fear escaped me. This is not the sort of thing I’d be curious about in the middle of those seventeen hour stretches, but only in the still dark thirty-six minutes of extra sleep stretching I get once the muted sounds of water and fan mix in the adjacent room.
I settle on two possibilities before drifting back into a half-sleep. The first is a theory about forbidden pleasures. I didn’t fully appreciate how delicious it felt to stretch out across a bed in any fashion until I was unable to do it for the better part of a year. For weeks following my surgery I was limited to one uncomfortable position, and I remember waking every few minutes to shift an inch or two. It was not unlike those nights when I was carrying my girls, limited to lying on one side, and then shifting, hourly, to the other one. For now, at least, I’m free to occupy as much or as little space as I wish to in those sleeping hours. I will not surrender one ounce of that freedom to the creatures under the bed.
The second possibility is deeper, and perhaps too strong a dive to make when I still have twenty-two more minutes before the quiet whirr of the second alarm static – the radio never stays properly tuned to a station these days. I wonder if I’m no longer scared of the unknown lurking just under the surface because it’s no match for the real fear I’ve met, or if I’ve just resigned myself to its randomness, relinquishing control I never had. I ponder both ends of this thought sequence before employing the yoga techniques I’ve been practicing for just over a year now. It’s habit now, but it took me months to connect that practice to my own bedtime ritual. Why did it take me forty years to master the art of shutting everything off, step by step? I relinquish everything, surrendering it all for sleep that comes quicker now than it ever has. Is that a form of prayer, or merely a deliberate relaxing of the jaw? I think it could be both. I’ll take it, either way.
I started this post as a reflection on the early morning February light, and planned to tie it into the photographs of a small project I recently finished in our bedroom. But the paragraphs kept writing themselves, turning away from the photographic challenges of blogging in the early, stolen moments, towards the thoughts that swirl before that first bit of light hits the corner of this bed I’ve still claimed for eleven more minutes. I can save the indigo hued sunprints for tomorrow. I’ll delete the photos now from the end of this draft.
Maybe it’s just February, a month of juxtapositions. The month of love and letterpressed cards. And the month when everything turned upside down. Love can do that flipping, but fear is more precise, more practiced at it. Maybe that is what I know now, and why I stretch into this void, still warm, and stay there for six more minutes before launching into the next seventeen hours. Forty years minus three of them, to know that this sequence is on repeat for as little or as long as it is, no more, no less. I nestle into that last thought, the one about relinquishing control I never had, and it makes the stretch and the warm spots all the sweeter. Often we meet in the middle, between the two whirrs of radio static, early and later, both of us giving up something on each side of it. Because it’s February, and the light is slow, and this space is warm, and it’s the month of love and fear, and the stretch between the two is delicious.