I am never certain when the night will begin, when slumber will let go of my brain and again the tick-tick-tick of conscious thought will begin to ramp up its engine.

A Rockland night scene captured when the rest of the world was asleep. Photo by Jan Wejchert

I am an insomniac. I thought it was a curse until I chose to embrace it; now the night is my most precious time of the day. I can concentrate on my writing, pursue scholarship down its winding path without distraction. Chopin’s full catalog is now familiar to me. I wish it were not so dark; how my garden would thrive, if only my nocturnal cultivations were actualized!

There is something unique about the night that focuses the concentration. We are free from the concerns of the day, the myriad anchors of distraction that hamper our thought, keep it from soaring. The grocery store, the bank, the boat that needs painting. All of those possibilities become moot at night. More than once, I have paused my pen to listen to “Bolero,” how Ravel adds and subtracts instruments to create the illusion of a column advancing in the desert. By analogy, I learn from Ravel how to do the same with my words. The art of pacing; the idea of introducing characters from a deck of cards I am holding. That I, as the ringmaster of this fictional circus, hold the deck.

The night can be frustrating … a sudden epiphany might excite me, so delightful I feel a strong compulsion to share it with my friends, however, I must constrain myself: It is 3 a.m. The night teaches patience.

And, finally, the night is where I most easily visit with the departed, those I miss. With a smile of collusion they show up at the party I seem to be having nightly. They stay for a while, until that same smile is planted on my face. I’ll join them someday. No rush. I’ve got work to do.

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