I love to sleep. I sleep well, and I can pretty much sleep on demand--put my head to one side, breathe deeply, and wake up awhile later--which is a useful skill. But I particularly like waking up earlier than I need to and being able to snooze, because it's only once I'm going back to sleep that I get the chance to realize where I am. And this time of year, I'm snoozing in the delicious warmth of flannel, under the seven covers I use in the winter. Seven, you say? (The part of me that can't make a joke without overexerting wants to say something about seven brides for seven covers, and that just doesn't make sense.) Well, let's see:
First, there are the time-worn flannel sheets my maternal grandparents gave me for Christmas in 1984. They're white with long vertical lines of bright, stylized flowers. They are so old that they are incomparably soft. I have tried to replace them, but nothing has come close. Next up, the brown wool blanket I picked out with my father when I was about four. For years, I wondered why I ended up with this brown blanket; it's a pretty unattractive color, and I don't think I was any more partial to brown when I was small than I am now, even if it was the early 1980s. Not too long ago, my mother confessed that she, too, wondered--even back in the early 80s--why I chose such an ugly color. I think I've figured out the answer, though: she had a sheepskin coat (which I now have) when I was little, and I think I equated wool with that coat, which has beautifully soft, curly wool at its collar and cuffs. I think I wanted a blanket of that curly wool and thus chose one roughly the color of the coat. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered how scratchy the blanket was. And yet now, I love the tactile experience of scratchy wool.
On top of the wool: the sampler quilt my mother made for me from 1981-88. It was worth the wait. My mom's quilts deserve their own entry, which they'll get, so I'll just note that within a few years of having finished this quilt, she went to work on my college quilt, which she finished before I left home in the early 90s. That one, whose pattern is called Red Hot Mama, is the next one up in the stack, followed by a crazy multicolored woolen afghan my great-grandmother, whom we called Bushia because that's Polish for grandmother, made for me when I was a baby, if not earlier. And then on top of the afghan, I have a couple of relatively uninteresting blankets, chiefly there for warmth--a red polarfleece throw to which I treated myself (along with giant balloon wineglasses, a bottle of my favorite Joseph Drouhin Laforet 2001 burgundy, a chunk of Port Salut cheese, and a copy of Singin' in the Rain on DVD) on an icy, lonely Valentine's Day in 2004, and a blue fuzzy acrylic throw to which my mom treated me at Thanksgiving last year. Usually this throw lives downstairs, but one night I was cold and took myself to bed swaddled, and the reverse migration just hasn't happened yet.
Perhaps abetted by the weight of this bedding, I am a thoroughly rocklike sleeper, something very closely akin to an archaeological specimen. I sometimes worry that if Gambier were ever to be disaster-stricken (tornado, apocalypse, fire), I might not get excavated for the ending. Why this worries me, I'm just now starting to ask myself; possibly it's because I (foolishly, I know) still don't believe that we don't all get to escape from disaster, despite the evidence of, well, all of human history. Fortunately, Gambier has a truly stellar disaster siren, the high quality of which we all get to appreciate anew when it gets tested at noon every Friday. I was halfway down the road to a noon lunch date last Friday when the siren screamed; in Gambier, one never has to wonder whether one's late for such a lunch.
So why on earth am I talking about all this, going in circles not unlike that siren, this morning? Because I woke up at 8 a.m., having gone to bed only a few hours earlier, and found myself unable to get back to sleep. I'll chalk some small part of this early rising up to the strange deformities my sleep undergoes every December; I can remember December days in Ithaca when I slept from 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., completely missing every inkling of light. I have not always handled the incursion of winter darkness so well; that's a topic for the solstice, my winter holiday of choice, so stay tuned. But this morning, I think I can attribute my strange, sleepy wakefulness in fairly equal measures to knowing that I have miles of work to go before I sleep again and, more pleasantly, to knowing that I came home last night from Columbus, through miles of mid-Ohio road, veritably floating on a cloud (as our favorite time-traveling magazine editor puts it). Funny how venturing forth at night, braving snow and breaching solitude, can make the cityscapes and landscapes through which one travels feel familiar and alien all at once, revealing them as places where one has been before but where no one has ever gone, where everything looks the way one remembers (or has heard it might be) and yet feels utterly ripe for exploration and epiphany.
(Always a postscript; I am, as that great epiphanist A.R. Ammons once said [of himself, not of me, let me add], a both/and person, not an either/or person, which means that I am a serial extra-thing-tosser-inner. Today's picture has nothing to do with anything, directly, but is a tribute both to the sun and to my mother's incredible generosity with her sewing machine. You're looking at the curtains my mother custom made for my study. This morning, the sun is strong enough, even as we creep up on the longest night of the year, that I can hear the drip of snowmelt, of fast thaw, outside the house. And that, in turn, means that today's picture has everything to do with everything.)