It was a long and sleepless night … |

It was a long and sleepless night …

Rich Mayfield

It is a tough time for insomniacs. For those of us who find our supposed sleepy-times filled not with sugar plum fairies but sour-pussed poltergeists, our nights seem as horrific as these days.If we manage to fall asleep at all, we are usually awakened in the wee hours with the kind of troubling questions that demand equally troubling answers and serve to prevent any hope of a good night’s rest.The immense tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, devastating one of America’s fabled cities, is compounded beyond measure by rampaging gangs of looters whose lawlessness is captured on film and whose shame is beamed into the homes of millions. What are we to make of this disgusting display of larceny and selfishness?

In the long and sleepless night, memories of ancient stories told by seers and written down by scribes come to mind. Myths of truth-telling that seek to describe the darker side of humankind are retold lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. A perfect couple, a perfect garden, a perfect time, sadly ephemeral, gone as quickly as it takes to pluck a forbidden fruit from its fragile stem.A fairy tale to most but a stark synopsis of self-centeredness to others who may have spent some of their restless nights pondering this tale that describes the depressing drama being played out in the Big Easy now so apparently east of Eden.We sleepless ones turn on the TV in the hope that its flickering light will break the gloom of our woeful, wakeful condition. But there is only more darkness. Long lines stretch out beyond the pumps and into the streets where scared citizens begin their hoarding as supply-side economics plays its hand. Time is passed in calculations of miles traveled and gallons burned.

And then there is the war, this endless, damnable, demoralizing war that promises so much and delivers so little. Imagining what it must be like to lie awake with similar thoughts on a dusty bunk outside of Baghdad. No one contests the value of a tyrant vanquished but growing numbers of moderate folk are wondering? What’s the point? If insomnia needs a cause surely this is justification.More and more friends spend less and less time reading the paper, watching the news. Who can blame them for their self-induced ignorance? What better way for a good night’s rest than ignoring the bad news of others? Of course, my own sleep-disturbing solutions stop at my bedroom door. No one is asking for answers from me and, in any case, I haven’t any to offer. So why spend such disturbed time?Given the choice, most insomniacs wouldn’t. Like the world of serenely sleeping souls we imagine fill most beds, we would choose, desperately choose, to join them in their slumber, joyfully switching off our minds with the bedside lamp. But?

But gremlins released by some diabolical power grind away behind our eyes, growling for attention. Satisfying them is hard, ignoring them impossible. So we wait and wait and wonder when exhaustion will prove more powerful and sleep, blessed sleep, will come and the pictures from the day, the problems of our lives, will vanish.These beautiful late summer mountain days stand in stark contrast to recent, nasty nights. They serve as a reminder of what is easily forgotten amid the darkness – or lost in glib trivial moments. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at

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