We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth- our larger body- to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it- cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind- as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.
―Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace
You’re lost in your own world, in the things that happen there, and you’ve locked all the doors. Sometimes I look at you sleeping. I wake up and look at you and I feel closer to you when you’re like that, unguarded, than when you’re awake. When you’re awake you’re like someone with her eyes closed, watching a movie on the inside of your eyelids. I can’t reach you anymore. Once upon a time I could, but not now, and not for a long time.
But that long day ends at last; yields to the night-time of the flood. And, just as the waters of the ocean come flooding, darkening over the pools, so over George and the others in sleep come the waters of that other ocean; that consciousness which is no one in particular but which contains everyone and everything, past, present and future, and extends unbroken beyond the uttermost stars. We may surely suppose that, in the darkness of the full flood, some of these creatures are lifted from their pools to drift far out over the deep waters.
In my childhood I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted “tiger” of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Paraná, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can only be faced by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: this is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.
It’s in the morning, for most of us. It’s that time, those few seconds, when we’re coming out of sleep but we’re not really awake yet. For those few seconds we’re something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. And then… and then– ah– we open our eyes and the day is before us and… we become ourselves.
“When it was done and I went to sleep, I lay awake and listened to the clock on your nightstand and the wind outside and understood that I was really home, that in bed with you was home, and something that had been getting close in the dark was suddenly gone. It could not stay. It had been banished. It knew how to come back, I was sure of that, but it could not stay and I could really go to sleep. My heart cracked with gratitude. I think it was the first gratitude I’ve ever really known. I lay there beside you and the tears rolled down the sides of my face and onto the pillow. I loved you then and I love you now and I have loved you every second in between. I don’t care if you understand me. Understanding is vastly overrated, but nobody ever gets enough safety. I’ve never forgotten how safe I felt with that thing gone out of the darkness.”