Wednesday, February 09, 2022

In the Still of the Night

We learned a lot by rote back in my childhood (the old days?) 

The nuns saw it as discipline. We saw it as torture. But, like it or not, we'd read and reread the passage or poem until we could recite it without recourse to the book. And how many times have I felt, finally, grateful to those cruel nuns for forcing that bit of culture on our unwilling psyches? Polonius' advice to Laertes? So many pithy pieces of advice in there....

 "Give thy thoughts no tongue," and "...every man thine ear but few thy voice" or, as my Dad more prosaically put it "A closed mouth catches no flies!"

 Good to remind myself of these, even after the damage is done. I'll know better next time. I knew, even back then, as I struggled to memorize them, they were worth listening to and internalizing. 

Snatches of Kubla Khan resound in my head from time to time just for the rollicking rhythm of it ,and Portia's speech on the quality of mercy - "It falleth as the gentle rain from heaven." A lot of rain hath fallen here of late, both the literal and the figurative.

I couldn't sleep last night. My hip hurt. Got up, stumbled to the bathroom in the dark, rubbed some medicinal cream on the offending part, went back to bed. The ache eased a bit, but I was still wide awake. Serves me right I thought. I prefer regular black tea but, in the evenings, usually drink herbal as it's less likely to keep me awake. But last night I yearned for real, hot, black tea, with milk and sugar of course - I am Irish after all. And between the comforting tea and various happenings of the day, my brain was going at a hundred miles an hour. 

I tried breathing slowly - in for five counts, hold for five, out for five. This should bring some oxygen to the brain, I thought, but, apparently, not enough.

 "Be still, sad heart and cease repining; 

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, 

Into each life some rain must fall," 

There we go with the rain again! But, Mr. Wadsworh, does it have to be a downpour? 

Still wide awake. Ease, quiet as a mouse, out of bed, reach in dark for glasses, search with toes for slippers, reach overhead for book, The Handmaid's Tale, of all things - not the most cheering read - and tiptoe to the kitchen.

It's 1:45 a.m.

Through the window an eerie moon glows; inside silence, familiar shapes - chairs, table, lamps; stillness; the hum of the fridge.

 Turn on light over stove; cocoa and pan from pantry; milk from fridge. The OC thinks instant should work. In the microwave. But it's the ritual I need. Every step calms.

 I need The Hot Chocolate Ceremony. 

Remember "Wax on, Wax off," from The Karate Kid? Focusing on the simple steps of a simple task gets other things out of my head, at least temporarily.

Measure milk into cup. Pour it into pan. Heat. One spoon cocoa, two spoons sugar, a sprinkle each of cardamom, cinnamon, tumeric into cup. Stir. Shlurp in some warm milk. Stir again. Pour in hot milk. Stir some more. Pull stool up to stove. Open book. Sip cocoa. Read book. Listen to quiet hum of refrigerator. Nerves calm, eyes grow heavy. Clock says 2:45 a.m. Close book. Creep back to bed. Insinuate self under blankets. Yawn hugely. Close eyes.

Goodnight trouble. 
Goodnight nuns.
Goodnight Shakespeare. 
Goodnight Portia.
Goodnight Mr. Wadsworth.
Goodnight rain.
Goodnight moon.
Goodnight kitchen.
Hello sleep!