Ten per cent of the human population needs ten hours of sleep or more a night. I am proud to be part of that exclusive Holy Order of Sleepers. I love to sleep. Over the years I’ve perfected my sleeping, so that what started out as a basic human need has become an art. On nights when I only get six or seven hours, due to some argument with the sleep goddess, I am ornery, mean and what did Hobbes call us? Wretched? Only if I get nine, ten, eleven or dare I admit it – twelve hours of the magic dust, do I wake with a smile, stretch my arms to the heavens and skip to the kitchen for my cup of warm water.
Many people have trouble falling asleep, but not I. First I lie on my back and give a good stretch. Since I have become a vegan, when I lie down I can trace the contours of all my bones. I like that. It pleases me to know everything is in mechanical working order, all set for a night’s sleep. But being open to the world on my back is not good for sleeping, so I flip over onto my stomach. I release into the mattress all obsessive thoughts about the day that has ended and the day that will come, directing them down into China where they belong, as my ankles, knees, pelvis, stomach and chest sink towards China as well. It is at this time that I place my Rolls Royce of a pillow on top of my head where it will shade me from the morning light that penetrates the shudder’s slats.
Sometimes, if I cover my head with two pillows, I hear Nikita Khrushchev yell, We will bury you.
The Jewish sages of blessed memory said sleeping is a 60th of death. The main difference of course is that we awake from sleep, but supposedly do not awake from death. Like the poet Theodore Roethke, I take my waking slow. This is the sweetest part of the night, dawn, when I dream, review the dream and then float slowly back up into semi-consciousness. I still see the tail of the dream and I chase it, wanting to grasp that other world where everything I create is brilliant. Once I catch the tail, I try to remember the other parts of the slippery dream. Sometimes I succeed. I leap over the Grand Canyon, drive semi-trailers, lecture to a room of five hundred people, nurse my babies. Such a rich life and I haven’t even gotten out of bed. Once, when I was nineteen, I saw young boys chasing greased pigs at a fair in Quaker City, Ohio. That’s what I do every morning in bed.
Gradually, I leave the dream world and enter full consciousness. The first thing I do is look at the clock. Did I set any records? No. Only ten hours tonight. I flip my feet down to the floor, sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes to make sure the breathing works and then lift up slowly into a standing position, ready for take-off. Ahh, to be an upright homo sapiens in the 21st century. Or is it the 22nd already?
Overcome by height, I lower my discs one by one to touch my toes. Straightening up, I assess the pain in my lower back. Fair to middlin’. All systems go. Slippered, I walk to the living room, open the screen, count the number of pigeon droppings on the porch and celebrate the Sun, that grand patron of time, who has agreed, yet again, to rise.