First Sleep, Second

Night became fashionable when wax candles were first installed in glass globes down Parisian avenues, the Rue Montmartre and otherwise cobbled pathways advertising all-night coffeehouses and dawn-to-dusk conversation. In marrying the crepuscular hours, forgetting there are necessary winks and wake-ups when caffeine is the unnecessary late night vehicle, Paris destroyed the natural circadian model. It is the City of Light, after all, though we in part need the dark. Someone, please, blow out the candles.

There used to be first-sleep, and second-sleep. It’s well-documented in both anthropology and literature. Though modern science extols the virtue of eight-hours’ sleep, what’s been forgotten is that said eight hours could—and perhaps should—occur in small blocks. Waking up does not necessitate insomnia, though modernity tricks us into being anxious when suddenly we find ourselves staring at the ceiling fan come 2 a.m. Waking up is normal in the middle of the night, we’ve just forgotten that this is natural and actually exists to alleviate the anxiety the idea of insomnia otherwise foments.

Wake up, wake up. Enjoy the dark.

First sleep lasts until the blankness of your inner eyelids matches the slate of the pre-Aurora sky. Waking up in the dark means there’s no jarring difference between being awake and asleep.

Historically, this is when people stretched and walked around, pupils not having to re-adjust to any change in light. It’s when some people stayed in bed and prayed, others choosing to visit their neighbors. It’s when familiars to the dark took to their tobacco or to their bedfellows, when stars shine their finest.

Cayde has been excited sometimes about the comet-storms that generally come at inconvenient hours, early morning before the coffee has yet to percolate, but well after the late-night news. I’ve told Cayde he needs to stay in bed. What he’s missed. The night sky happens when everyone urges sleep.

Don’t sleep at 2 a.m. That’s when all the quiet noisily happens.

I used to fall upwards in the one-digit hours, awake and velcroed to the ceiling. Perspective. It used to be that I’d lie awake and hear the claxons of nocturnal birds near-taunting me, feathered things in the tree outside with calls that imitated the alarm soon to come.

I wake up now, always 2 a.m., and lie in bed thinking. Finn joins us on the mattress roundabout the same hour, he the perfect example of first, second sleep. I fold my hands behind my head, and write stories, head perfectly buzzing. I am calm in not sleeping. It’s natural; I hear the birds outside, and never worry about being too tired in the morning. The opposite holds true.

Being awake at 2 a.m. means being more awake at 6. And when the alarm goes off, mechanical birds with mechanical claxons, there is the thought that being in the dark first, and before the light, informs everything.
Blow out your candles.


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