Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sleeping at the Cabin

     Said I wasn't gonna do this 'til Spring. But I got to thinking about sleep. And how wonderful it is to hear and smell the outdoors when in bed. Or in a sleeping bag. Or a blanket roll. There's something about sleeping outside that makes me feel a part of it all. Even if the outside has to be inside.
     When I was a kid an open window at bedtime was a joy. The cool of the dark evening air on my face made the warmth of my toes feel a pleasurable balance. Like being out for a run in the rain knowing a roof and dry clothes ain't but an hour away. What's the fun of being warm if you don't know cold? Opposites define each other and together, make a whole.
     Alone at the cabin I sleep on the window bench. One time, twenty five years ago, it'd been a child's bed. A nice one to be sure. First Annie, then Allan, slept on it. Three drawers beneath. All-in-all, a nice case. And would have maybe been handed down for grandchildren had not Lois liked the idea of a window bench beneath the triple mullion casement window in the addition. And back then we weren't thinking as far down the road as grandchildren. So I cut 'er down to size. Same length but only two feet wide. Added oak block feet to raise it to the right height and Lois sewed up a covered four inch thick pad for the top.
     Come bedtime I top the wood stove off. Damper it down all the way. It's a Franklin stove. Not efficient at all but the glass doors let out a nice light. An indoors camp fire. Shadows dance nicely on the vaulted ceiling for a couple of hours 'til it's only coals and glow.
     Me, I throw a light sleeping bag on the seat. Prop a coupla pillows and read. But not for long even if it's a good book. The highlight of the night comes when I crack the window by my nose. Turn off the lamp. Let my eyes get used to the dark. Never fails to strike me how black it is when the light goes out. And how light it is two minutes later. And how good a cold nose feels. I don't want it to end. Don't want to fall asleep. But I can't resist.
     Come about 2:30 my bladder comes to the rescue. Time to stoke the stove anyhow. If I'm near a full tank, the trip to the yard will come first. Clear skies and I better spread my feet a good distance. Gonna be looking up while I'm streaming down. If near to full moon the trees will sillouette against the washout above. Once in a rare late Fall, the Northern lights might be curtaining. Mostly, it's just the Milky Way for entertainment. That's a funny line. On a black sky night you can almost see the cosmic dust clouds up there. The Milky Way is always a knockout. The show above makes for a reluctant return to the bag. Don't know why it is, maybe a kind of sauna effect, but ten minutes outside at thirty above feels comfortable. Even in t-shirt, drawers and Homer Simpson flip-flops.
     Inside, maybe a few coals will still be glowin' on the fire grate. Crumpled newspaper, kindling and a fistful of finger sticks will get it started. Close the doors and wait for the roar. Twenty-two feet of straight, eight inch pipe gets Benjamin sounding like a jet taking off. Give it a minute. Stuff it to the gills with oak and damper down. The box will be warm, and the room like summer, come morning.
     Finally, it's cold nose, warm toes time again. Maybe a cryptic dream to chew on for the morning hours. Listen to the owl make its forays to lunch as I drowse off. Probably the grandchild of the one we first heard in the early '80s. Not sure why it likes to hunt from up there. Maybe for the rodents living in our woodpiles. Life is built on death. And wakefulness is built on sleep.

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