" 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
Something is moving.
Something is alive in the room.
Something tells me to go
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
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
I am not
And neither is the
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
There is something
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
Then I realize what the
It is the
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
Then I would hear it.
Mother Earth humming
While everyone else was
Alone together in the
"dead of night."
In the life of
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
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
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
"Do not do what others
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.
Search, and you will
Find what you are
In the middle of the
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
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
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
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.
After a while the
coyotes stop howling, stop howling their hauntingly beautiful
serenade to the sky, and so do I. All is quiet once
Except for the earth,
still softly humming, still softly humming her ancient
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
A good night to be