Middle of Night Ode to Joy

" It is not the death or dying which is tragic, but rather to have existed without fully participating in life- that is the deepest personal tragedy." Edward Abbey

I wake up and gaze at the tingling molecules of darkness buzzing around in my bedroom.

Something is moving. Something is alive in the room.

Something tells me to go outside.

So I get up, and grab a coat, and head for the back door.

As I walk outside into the semi-darkness, I feel the cold, fresh night air gather round me. All is quiet. Very quiet. I remember an old Rumi poem, something about "Don't go back to sleep, there are people moving back and forth across the doorsill" in the early morning hours

I pee in the weeds, listening to the sound of myself "making water" and blessing the earth with it. Returning it. Giving it back.

I look up at the night-time sky and see that it is clear. Gazing at the stars, the nameless stars, the countless millions of stars. They are like pinholes of sacred light in the sky's firmament, like tiny openings or keyholes, in the blue, blue blackness, like little glimpses of the endless heaven which awaits us just beyond the dark night.

I am not asleep.

And neither is the Universe.

I listen again to the silence. The blessed peace and quiet. And then I hear something. I hear something, with my other ears.

There is something coming.

There is something humming.

I sense that there is a very large living creature nearby. Indeed, right next to me. But not an animal. Not exactly.

I listen further, closer. I crouch down in my haunches and stop breathing. There it is. Humming. Humming. Almost like a kitten purring. Or some kind of ethereal music.

Then I realize what the noise is.

It is the earth.

Mother Earth, softly humming a song, in the middle of the night.

I had heard her before. Years ago, while a young man hitchhiking around North America, I would often find myself waking up in the middle of the night while sleeping outside. I would lay there in my sleeping bag, and slowly wake up, and slowly remember who I was, and where I was. Whether it was a cornfield in South Dakota, or a forest in California, or a railroad siding out in the middle of the desert. Out in the middle of nowhere.

Then I would hear it. Hear her.

Mother Earth humming peacefully.

While everyone else was sleeping.

Except me.

And her.

Alone together in the "dead of night."

In the life of night.

For the night is not dead. And neither is this planet. She is alive. Very much so. And awake, even at 3 a.m. And aware. Aware of those who do not sleep in the middle of the night

I am not asleep.

I look up at the stars again. They are glowing serenely, like many, many little moons, or many, many tiny suns. Like eternal embers of an endless fire, like nocturnal members of an endless tribe, like loving ancestors set in the night-time sky, just so.

I am not alone.

I hear the faint rushing in the sagebrush. I am not the only one awake. For there are owls, and large cats, and other wild animals who do not sleep in middle of night. Those that hunt. Those that search. Those who cannot sleep while there is so much going on.

A bird flies overhead, high, high above me, but I can hear each flap of its wings, indeed, every feather in its flight. I remember a raven I met years ago in the Utah desert. A raven that spoke to me. And told me this:

"Do not do what others do.

Do not sleep in the middle of the night.

Do not close your eyes, do not close your ears, do not close your heart to the lessons of night, the lessons of darkness, the lessons of Mother Earth and Father Sky, the lessons of the other world which is not human, the other world that is so much more than human. Do not be normal. Do not be like the others.

Listen. Feel. See.

Search, and you will find.

Find what you are looking for.

In the middle of the night."

I stand outside in the darkness, in the darkness that is the true light, the light of night, as long as I can, until the winter chill seeps inside my sparse clothing, and I decide to go back into the house.

Just then I hear a coyote's voice off in the distance, off in the southwest. First a yip, then a cry. Then another coyote joins in. Then another. Then full-throated howls as the whole pack, the entire tribe, joins in and fills the cold night air with the sounds of delirious joy, which is the purest noise of them all, for it is the sound of being alive.

I am chilled to the bone, but it is no longer a cold chill. For every cell in my body is now tingling with ecstasy, with joy, with warmth from a source not of my body's making. I suddenly hear my voice joining in with the coyotes singing.

With the universe singing.

Just singing in the middle of the night, just singing in the middle of nowhere, just singing for winter, just singing for spring, just singing for dear life.

Just singing.

For that is what life is: Just the sheer living of it, the sheer enjoyment of it, the pure and thus holy exultation in it. To live well, to go for it, to do what your true nature tells you to do, which is to truly live before you die.

That is all, and all-in-all. And that is enough.

That is enough.

After a while the coyotes stop howling, stop howling their hauntingly beautiful serenade to the sky, and so do I. All is quiet once again.

Except for the earth, still softly humming, still softly humming her ancient melody.

A breeze comes up from out of the juniper hills, from out of the sagebrush prairie. I smell wood smoke, and hear a great-horned owl go "hoo, hoo," just twice. I see a falling star. I make a wish.

To live well. Real well. Until I die.

I go back inside the house. But not back to bed.

For it is a good night.

A good night to be awake.

Curt Melliger



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