Teri Orr: It was a dark and stormy night…
The snhlain was hitting the windows with such force it woke me up. Snow. Hail. Rain … at the end of May. It was maybe 4 a.m.
If you have never watched Rives’ two TED talks — about the mystery of 4 a.m. and the museum of 4 a.m. — do yourself a fun, rabbit-hole-style favor. Stop reading this right now — and go watch.
Right? You’re welcome.
So, weird stuff has happened at 4 a.m. since the beginning of time or at least since the beginning of popular culture. When you wake up at that hour nothing normal happens. You are suspended between time and space and rational thought. And eventual — but still remote — daylight.
Things get weird.
So I woke up and was aware, the noises coming from downstairs in the front of my house were so much louder than the frozen water pelting at the windows upstairs. It sounded like a monster was throwing my wicker porch chair against the front door and the windows. It was hitting the wooden porch with force. It demanded investigation.
There are few things I hate as much as getting up in the middle of the night. I love my little nest of blankets and pillows and I like sleeping with the house pretty cool. So peeling that off and crawling out of the warmth to check out the nocturnal noises made me cranky. Still, I live alone. It wasn’t like I could say — “hey Big Guy — you go check out the noise in the night.” Nope, I had to get up and out and down the stairs.
I couldn’t really see anything in the ambient light. But this noise was increasing. Maybe there was someone trying to get in. Maybe some bear had found my front porch. I was just going to flip the switch and meet the devil — it was clearly more than the elements responsible. So I did — hit the light and saw the masked intruder knocking over the chair and then quickly turning with that long-pointed nose looking right in the window back at me. I squealed and froze and then laughed. The raccoon was not fazed in the least. He kept pushing the wicker porch chair closer to the side of the front door so he could climb the door frame and take his long nails and swipe at the bird feeder to release the seeds so he could eat them.
There were choices and options and plans I could have devised. I turned off the light and left the elements to pound the windows and roof and left my intruder to do his damnedest to attack the bird feeder and release the goods. I learned a very long time ago in my tiny part of the world — feeding the birds is about so much more than the birds.
So I returned to my cozy bed nest and tried to go back to sleep. And sleep would not come. It was, after all, around 4 a.m. The mind wanders and goes to corners dark and curious and confused. It tries to make connections never meant to be made. It tries to solve riddles and puzzles of the day before, maybe the decade before. The turning, the tossing, the second guessing, decisions made and yet to be made. The broken conversations, song lyrics, dialogue from a movie. The news reports on television, radio, newspapers, online. Is British Prime Minister Theresa May resigning in May … or June … or not at all. Not a merry month of May for her. And so many folks chose to marry in May or June. I know I did. Once in May and once in June. If I had married in the winter, would I have fared better? Most fairs take place in August. County and state ones — with exhibit halls showing off homegrown, homemade goods. Like the giant squash or the patchwork quilt. I could plant squash now but not tomatoes yet. I have a quilt my great grandmother made with giant tomato-colored flowers appliquéd on top. It was a strange color to have used and I tried to figure out if she had put it together in The Depression and used whatever scraps were available to her then. And is depression an overused word? Prices of stocks were no longer valued so highly in the late Twenties and the stock market crashed and depressed the value and people lost their livelihoods and became depressed. Soon we will have to think of new ways to talk about a date like that because the 2020s will be upon us and saying the Twenties won’t necessarily mean the 1920s anymore.
4 a.m. — sigh — and really why do we say a.m.? Ante meridiem is Latin for Before Midday hence the abbreviation and p.m. or post meridiem is also Latin for After Midday. Why are still using Latin as the baseline for so many things … but not walruses and kings … Oh how I love that silly poem by Lewis Carroll where the Walrus and the Carpenter walk and talk…
The time has come, the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.
And where did that notion come from that maybe pigs could fly — like Pegasus in the sky? Don’t we all want wings? What was the name of the gospel hymn taught to me in public elementary school with the line … “when your feet get tired — put on your wings”?
Some nights sleep will not come. And the best you can do is try to fly outside your body and listen and watch the synapses try to connect between the naps-es and wait for it to be another curiouser and curiouser Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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