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!


Elephant's Child said...

I also learned a lot by rote. And am very, very grateful for it.
Your hot chocolate antidote for insomnia sounds delicious too. Thank you.

Relatively Retiring said...

To have an internal library of poetry, psalms, quotations, traditional songs and smatterings of other languages is one of the benefits of a good old (even ancient) education. Excellent in times of stress. I try to stay in bed and leaf through it in the dark.

What time did you wake up, and how was your day after that?

Colette said...

When I can't turn off my mind and fall asleep, I have to get up and read as well. Staying in bed and trying to calm the mind is torture. I will have to try the hot chocolate cure.

Elephant's Child said...

Yesterday I got up a little after 3. Today half an hour after that. Needless to say I spend a lot of time being tired to the bone.

molly said...

EC - We also learned our times tables by rote and to this day they pop into my head now and again! Did you mean 3 a.m? Ouch! Or 3 p.m. in which case you must have been exhausted from sleeping.

RR - I love that - an internal library. We've been watching The Paris Murders in the evenings so when the OC called today on his way home I answered the phone with "Hallo, j'ecoute!" Without missing a beat he replied "A coot? An old coot?" Sometimes my attempts at fluency in another language get derailed by laughter. As for your question - around 9:00 a.m. and everything always looks more cheerful when the sun comes up!

Colette - it works for me. But curiosity made me check on web MD to see if it has any scientific basis. According to what I read, tryptophan is a fairy tale. A cup of warm milk, according to the site, more likely reminds you, subconsciously, of being tucked into bed with your teddy bear by your mom. My mom's no longer around and my old teddy bear stays on the couch, so hot cocoa it is!

Elephant's Child said...

3am. Two thirty this morning. My sleep schedule is seriously shot. And yes, I learned my times table that way too.

Lee said...

I'll whisper this in case you're asleep! :)

I hate it when my mind goes into over-drive when I decide to shut down for the night. Sometimes my mind has second thoughts...thousands of second is then akin to a kaleidoscope, with its own mind! :)

Take good care, Molly. Do you take magnesium tablets...they might help ease the discomfort of your painful hip. :)

Pauline said...

We should call one another - quietly of course. I often get up in the wee hours, make a cup of tea, and sit in the dark, watching the light change ever so slowly. Eventually my eyes close again.

Thimbleanna said...

Oh dear. I hope your sleep has returned by now. When I was young, I was bemoaning some insignificant trouble to a much older and wiser co-worker and he said "Into every life a little rain must fall". It was the first time I'd heard it and I've remembered it often over the years -- particularly when rain is falling on my life. I hope your rain has let up by now too. -- XO.

Ali Honey said...

It all sounds very familiar to me!

Pam said...

Ah yes, my head too is full of quotations. 1950/60 teaching had its faults but did make you memorise lots of stuff. Sympathy for your sore hip. I too have one of those and thought it was because I didn't do yoga. I'm cheered to find that this isn't so (not that I wish sore hips on anyone).