A pattern in the night

Image: Pixabay

I couldn’t sleep. I’d gone to bed sleepy, read until I could read no more, then snuggled down expecting the inner lights to go out within minutes. An hour later I was still waiting… and wide awake. It might have had something to do with the discomfort in my hand. Nothing to do with typing too much of course… not possible. I gave in and got up, heading for hot milk and more of the damnable painkillers. I wasn’t best pleased about the whole affair as I need to be up by six at the latest, Sunday or not, and it had been after midnight when I had finally gone to bed in the first place.

The previous night it had been the wind howling outside. It is odd, I have no qualms about being high on a hilltop in the wind, buffeted by gusts and struggling to stay upright. That I enjoy. But I don’t like the noises the house makes in a gale. I hadn’t particularly cared for the creaks and groans of the trees either when Ani and I had been out for our walk. But I had slept as soon as the rain began to batter the windows. That I find soothing.

It is strange the associations we make with sensory impressions and how deeply they are ingrained and affect behaviour. The smell of candlewax I find both comfortable and uplifting. The sound of rain on an umbrella is happy… and on canvas the memories of camping trips and laughter come back. The list is endless…

I was thinking about it when I was cuddling my granddaughter. The small sounds of a sleepy child seem to trigger the competence of motherhood again. The body knows what to do…how to lift and hold, how to rock and calm. Probably with far more confidence now than when the skills were first learned. The smell of paint reminds fingers what to do to create an image. The touch of flour tells them how to make pastry. The sound of a waltz reminds the feet how to dance.

I wondered how much our memory is rooted in the physical. All of it in some ways, as we can only experience through the senses. We know there is muscle memory, a pattern known to the body that it can repeat with increasing ease and accuracy as we learn new skills. Then we add the overlay of emotion, of course… a context that frames and defines each memory and colours our perception each time they are triggered. It is all part of the constant programming that builds up the layers of individuality that make us who we are.

Our experiences of the world are pretty limited really… limited by the portals of the senses themselves as to how we can perceive. Yet even if we experience the same event, emotion will make our perception of it different for each of us. A lifetime of such differences makes each of us a unique combination… individuals.

It shouldn’t be a surprise really, that pattern of infinite possibility born of limitation is all around us. Nine numbers can go on indefinitely producing other numbers that are unique unto themselves. Twenty-six letters of the alphabet combine to make over a million words in English alone… three primary colours combine with light and shadow to produce millions of tints, hues and shades… seven notes create every song ever sung, every symphony played…

It is within this limitation itself that harmony is established. Paradoxically, their very restriction creates the relationship between them that permits harmony, dissonance and growth and gives their distance both meaning and beauty as they spiral outwards towards infinity, allowing us to trace their patterns and begin to know them.

Within ourselves the five senses allow us to ‘harmonise’ too, understanding each other through the empathy of common experience. Seven billion humans alive today, have common ground through five shared senses. Untold numbers of other creatures share those senses too, and by their presence or absence, their experience is defined. Yet every single one of us is unique, perhaps solely because of the thoughts and emotions with which we respond to those experiences. The jury is out on which of those two come first… whether emotion gives rise to thought or vice versa. I’m not sure they are separable or separate, regardless of precedence. Perhaps they are the manifestation of the same process on a different arc of the spiral.

Looking out of the door, open to the night at the insistence of the dog, I look up at the stars; visible traces of our own spiral galaxy, and wonder of what it too may be a part… what its relationships may be to other galaxies… what harmonies might be brought into being out there in the blackness… Billions of point of light. From here they all look pretty much the same and yet I can discern the patterns of the constellations; remember their stories and mythology… know that man is already out there exploring…

My senses have taken me from pain to infinity; my thoughts have travelled the universe, through both the inner uniqueness of man and the vast wonderment of space. My emotions have spiralled from annoyance to awe… all in the time it took to recognise a pattern in the night.

26 thoughts on “A pattern in the night

  1. A lovely post, Sue. I am fortunate that I never struggle to sleep and can do it anywhere, plane, train or automobile and in any weather. My nieces visited for this weekend and the one (aged 10) doesn’t sleep. Her parents give her sleeping tablets and last night she still didn’t sleep until after 10pm. Late for a child of this age.

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  2. What a wise woman you are, Sue! I could read your words and expressed thoughts all day….I am so grateful to be in my 80s and be able to think on and be even more curious in my dottage…I recently re-read some of a memoir I wrote in 2005.and it was too verbose in the wrong manner…I have learned such a lot about writing in the last ten years,it’s quite encouraging. I doubt I’ll have either time or talent to write exactly as I would like, but I’m at least trying.. Peace and love.

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    1. We all have the chance to learn, every day… and whether we are given the time to put what we learn into practice is perhaps not the most important point, Joy. But being open to learning… what a gift at any age 🙂 xx

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  3. Beautiful musing, Sue. The gazillions of singular patterns is mindboggling to me. And yet there are shared threads that weave us into the fabric of creation, unique and yet essential to the whole. I love the contradictory feelings of infinitesimal smallness and colossal immensity that occur when I look at the night sky. ❤

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  4. Beautiful post, Sue. What I would suggest to get you to sleep might be something Ani would like! Have her snuggle up to you and pet her slowly. I do this with my cat and am asleep in no time!

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  5. Great post and I so get it. I’m a born insomniatic. The only way I learned to go to sleep was reading. No matter what time I got to bed I read. I need to get lost in a story until the words start blending in and I pass out. Otherwise my wandering mind never stops ❤

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  6. I awoke the other night, to find the man-child still home and his new alarm, for new schedule, to go to work at o’dark thirty had…failed – – as he galloped around, to get to work – I stepped outside into the crystal cold and realized, “I can’t find the constellations I know by name….how long since I gazed at the sky, at this time of day, this time of year? – -” Answer – obviously too long – however, now, through senses, I learn, we both gazed at the beautiful night sky, when sleep eluded and returned to bed, once more in awe – – LOL

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      1. Long ago, I lived in the mountains of Colorado – and was up around 3am – in deep winter time – the other members of the ‘late night revelry’ party was urging me to ‘come in out of the cold’ when we arrived home, – but I remember gazing up at the skies, and finally, fully, grasping, how the stars can seem close enough to touch – the others trooped into the house, and I was left in the silent landscape – it really changed things for me – internally – I never forget the pure joy of the first time – even if I choose to not always get up at 3am to try to recreate the moment – 😀

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