I wake up every morning sometime between two and five o’clock am. And often I can fall back asleep again but usually I can’t. When I can’t I have a little regimen that I follow. I take ten milligrams of melatonin (a hormone usually created in the pineal gland, but available in pill form, that helps control the sleep-wake cycle), and a hot cup of tea that consists of one teaspoon of dried motherwart that I gathered from my yard this fall, which helps control my irregular heart rhythm and is a natural sedative, one teaspoonful of peppermint to settle my stomach, which is usually still gurgling from eating too soon before bedtime, and a teabag of Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic Nighttime Relaxation Blend containing Chamomile, Passionflower, and Hops. If you’ve ever tried just straight hops, then you know that it is the mellow part of beer, not the intoxicating part, but the part that smoothes you out.
This is just one of my winter stories. There are several others that I am living also, that involve statistics about blankets, pillows, house temperatures and phone calls to my son in Hawaii, but this is the one that I want to tell you now. I want to tell it to you because it is cold, it is winter, and I am stuck indoors, in my flannel pajamas and my wool socks and a wool hat, trying to keep warm at three in the morning while trying to get back to sleep.
When I do get back to sleep, and I always do, because my little concoction always works, I will dream. And this is the story I want to tell, the story of winter, of sleepless nights, the story of dreams.
At first, I usually toss around in bed for a while until I determine that I’m not going to just fall back asleep. I turn on the light over the bed, get up and get all my pajama gear on, with wool socks and the nice furry slippers my neighbor, Monica, gave me for my birthday, and go make the tea in the kitchen. While it steeps for fifteen minutes, I read, or just stare at the ceiling, or write things like this. I finish off this nocturnal submission with the tea, and usually within another fifteen minutes I am drowsy, ready to get back to dreamland.
These are the dreams I want to dream: of spring, and the first crocuses, the redbud trees and the purple warmth of their spring flowers, the bloodroot flowers under the oak tree; and the garlic shoots that I planted in the fall protruding through the heavy leaf mulch just the way they do every year, after the snow is gone and the frost is a history of winter; of early peas and the warm blue sky, the horizon beckoning me to walk towards it and discover more of the spring’s enticing tales. I want to dream these things and wake up to the sound of someone in the kitchen and the smell of fresh coffee, maybe bacon sizzling.
But instead I will dream fitful dreams of my children in complicated situations that I can’t quite rescue them from, or of my brother and me living alone in the house we grew up in, the house empty of furniture except for dozens of old brass pole lamps that are dim and have no shades and are all loose jointed and in danger of falling over when we go around to turn them off with twister knobs that are hard to work, and of stray dogs that my brother has brought home that bump me and nose my bare legs, and ghostlike people going by outside the windows like a stream of forgotten friendships. These are the dreams I will dream, because it is winter and all my blankets will get bunched up and my feet never quite warm.
Because the sedative cocktail works so well, I will sleep until nine or ten in the morning. The Sinks Grove morning traffic will be over and everything will be still. The only noise I will hear is the occasional cycling of the refrigerator; the only smells, the smells of me and my old house. I will start my routine all over again: cleaning the kitchen, reading the news, breakfast, maybe a trip to town or a chore around the garage or yard if it is warm enough, maybe a trip to the Kroger for something I don’t really need, but want, and more wine. Almost before I can blink, it will be dark again and I will come home and start my dinner, drink my wine, and eat my dinner or not, because I am not really hungry, I am only eating because I should and cooking makes me happy; then I’ll stay up too late watching Netflix movies, and decide I’m hungry after all, eating too soon before bedtime. I’ll sleep for a few hours and awaken again with sleeplessness and indigestion, the disheveled bed, the longing for spring, make my tea and return to those crazy winter dreams.
– Larry Berger, HashtagWV #109. January 2019.