175: John Muir & Sleeping Outside

                “Contemplating the lace-like fabric of streams outspread over the mountains, we are reminded that everything is flowing–going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. […] the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature’s warm heart.”
                -John Muir,
My First Summer In The Sierra

                About three years ago, for the first time since I was six or seven, I started having trouble sleeping. I wasn’t (and I’m not) sure why. I lay awake, worried about not being rested, angry at not being asleep, and then I lay awake some more because I was angry and worried. I closed my eyes (or covered them with a pillow) and told myself: lie still! Be asleep! It didn’t help that much. After about a month, the sleeplessness slipped off without explaining itself. I still slept with the blinds closed and a t-shirt over my eyes, because that had become my habit. Otherwise things went back to normal. A new normal, I suppose.
                This weekend I slept outside. It got down to 33 degrees, I think, and it was windy, so the tip of my nose and the top of my head were cold as I fell asleep. I put down my sleeping pad on a slopey part of the backyard, because that’s where I was most hidden from my various neighbors’ lights. I woke up every now and then, to the wind chime that kept ringing, to the cold hand of the wind, to a possum (I think), to sliding off my pad. And I slept wonderfully. The stars were bright and the trees were whispering. When I woke up, I was aware of them for a moment, happy with them, and then I was asleep again.
                I think I fell into the habit of looking for peace by covering my eyes, by insisting there be no light around me, no outside sound. That’s one way to look for peace. But I think I found more when I decided to stop fighting against all those outside shifting whispers, when I went out from my house, got my toes cold in the grass, and lay down to listen (and yawn) with a smile. When we’re young, we’re not rocked to sleep by stillness. There’s so much flowing around me, through me, over me. I can look for peace by shutting my eyes to the movement. I can look for peace by being part of the current.

One thought on “175: John Muir & Sleeping Outside

  1. Yes! For many years now, I have made myself an outside nest, covered by a sailcloth roof out on my porch. Started it during a time of depression and it was definitely part of the cure. Sleeping outside should be on the list of essential home remedies, thanks for the lovely reminder, my dear Azlan.


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