My wife is away for a few days on a business trip. She is very much missed in our household, and her absence is noticed in numerous ways. One such instance occurred over night number one of her trip.
At 4:11am our nearly five-year old son walked into our room. He was sniffling and coughing, but knew exactly where to go in the dark. He climbed up on my wife’s side of the bed, as his routine. Upon discovering the empty space, he continued his roll-slide-shuffle over to the first thing he bumped into, which was me. His breathing was somewhat restricted from being stuffed up, and he is one of those boys who likes to bury himself more and more as he sleeps, often times burrowing himself under his pillows and piles of blankets. I did get him to rest against me and a pillow to get his head elevated. It worked well and he quickly was deeply sleeping again. I enjoyed the snuggle with my dear little boy and it is always rewarding as a parent to know that the child’s journey is complete when arriving here with me. Now my wife, she masters this edge of consciousness and deep sleep thing; me, not at all. I was up.
At 4:53am his twin sister came into our room. As always, she closed the doors to the rooms she left and entered. She wanted mommy but was slightly confused. She asked me if this was the night that mommy came home. I told her tonight was not the night. As she made her way across the bed towards her brother and I, she said, “Oh I thought tonight was the night.” She laid down but she was restless. After a few minutes, at 4:58am exactly, I asked her if she wanted to go back to her bed and sleep there. She said yes. I picked her up and carried her to her room and gently placed her on her bed.
For several minutes, I sat on the floor next to her bed, there in the dark, and I rested my head on the edge of her mattress. My daughter curled up into sleeping position and wrapped one arm around my neck. I sang to her for a little while, going through some of her favorite bedtime songs. Before long she was asleep again. At 5:11am I walked back into our room, wishing I was asleep, but realizing I was fully awake. My son was melting into the bed, sleeping so peacefully and beautifully.
In the dark silence, with the cold winds howling outside, I noticed the gorgeous star lit sky. I walked around and looked at the sky from four different windows, looking in every direction to notice the cloudless sky, and the piercing light from the stars that had no man-made light to compete with from my vantage points. I cannot begin to count the number of times ever since childhood that the sky has captured my attention, often times for long stretches of time, especially at night.
Being wide awake and wanting to get a better look at the sky, I figured I should do something about it. So I made my way downstairs. I threw on some wind-pants and a light jacket. I grabbed my camera and the awesome tripod I got for Christmas from the kids, and ventured into the front yard. Now, the temperature was just 17°F and the winds were whipping up at 15-25 mph, driving the wind chill factor to 0°F. One thing that someone taught me long ago was to take some pleasure in the exhilaration of those cold blasts, and to know that I am very much alive. Standing in the cold, looking to the skies, at 5-something in the morning, I chose to embrace the idea of being very much alive.
Now I am a novice photographer at best, but I do love to participate. I don’t know exactly what I captured in the pictures I took, but I tried to make my camera see at least what I could see, if not more. I set the camera on the tripod and left the shutter open for the maximum 30 seconds that my camera is capable of for each picture. After each shot, the image on my little display looked pretty cool to me, even as I stood shaking a bit in the cold. I hoped I was getting some decent pictures even though I didn’t take a lot of time fumbling around in the dark and the cold.
At 5:58am I made it back to our room. I checked on my son who hadn’t moved a muscle and was sleeping deeply. I checked on my daughter too, and she was out cold, hands and feet both perfectly and symmetrically together. I climbed into bed as not to disturb my little boy, but also with a sense of urgency to get warmed up again. I did get back to sleep for an hour or so before our 8th grader got up for school. The twins both slept until after 7am which is later than usual, especially for my son.
As the morning wore on, I sat down in front of this keyboard to make sense of last night and to figure out the chicken scratch notes I wrote to myself in the dark. I also wished (in a small way) that I could engage with the kids while not fully waking up like my wife does. Then again, I am exhausted but I got to see the treats that are a perfectly clear starlit night sky and the illuminated dots that pierce the darkness from distances measured in years. These are the same sources of light that I sang softly about to my daughter as she drifted back into the awesome vastness of sleep. So tired as I may be (I am), I would have to say it was a great night. My son’s first words to me this morning were, “Dad, I love you soooo much.” Who am I to complain.
I sit here wrapping this whole typing thing up. The sun is bright. The winds are making their presence known. The various shades of green seen in the form of needles long and short, wave and lurch to and fro in the breezes that blow. The outline of the massive pine catches my eye, as it always does, when those greens sway against the perfect blue back drop. I could watch it all for hours, if not days. The sun climbs and the angles of the shadows change. The sky beckons, and I am always game. My gaze is often fixed upon that boundless space. My prayers are so often delivered as I stare to these blue depths. Finishing this, I think of my wife, away from here, and the sky she sees today. I take solace in the space that connects us even in times apart, and one such thing would be the sky. I stare at the blue knowing she can see the sky too, and it helps me feel close, even though my wife is away.