Tag Archives: sleep

Books for bedtime.

In that bedtime span between climbing under the blankets and being fully asleep, the mind needs somehow to go from a state of being actively engaged with conscious thoughts, to being turned off to all of that, on its way to dreamland. I haven’t studied the science of this except as a participant in and observer of own experiments, which have led me to theories and conclusions.

Ivy and Fred

It appears that my own mind has been trained to need a certain routine in order to make that transition, which is the activity of reading. I guess it’s not surprising, since most of my life I have enjoyed a book or magazine before bed, or in bed before sleep. I used to keep at it for hours sometimes, but in recent years it may only take five minutes before I begin to drift off, or one paragraph.

Nights when I was dead tired and not anxious about anything, I thought surely I could bypass this mental step and just conk out. But I tried that more than once, and would lie there for an hour, praying, counting sheep, thinking of beautiful places — but never sleeping, until I would turn on the light again and read a few lines. Then, in two minutes the nodding off would begin.

The sort of book I want has narrowed to a genre of its own: Bedtime Books. Requirements: Not too demanding, but well written, not too dark or exciting, and not so long that it makes a book that is large and heavy. The print is the one aspect that can’t be small! It can’t be on Audible because I’m trying to keep my phone in the other room at night. Smallish paperbacks are ideal, so I visited the local paperback store last week for the first time in many years, to browse the shelves; I was looking for the smaller, “trade paperbacks,” and found quite a few possibilities. (I traded in $31 worth of books that I was glad to let go of.)

Afterward I stopped at the library to pick up two cookbooks on hold, and I remembered that the local branch has a used bookstore, so I found as many more small books there. Here is the stack of all that I came home with, which I hope might last me for years.

Because when I have a chance to listen to Audible books, or read philosophy or theology or Great Novels, at any other time of day, I won’t be making progress in these smaller reads. It’s good to be so tired when one drops into bed that only a few paragraphs get read.

I think I’ve only read one of these before, but I bet my readers know many of them well. I’ve read other books by Natsume Soseki, Walls, George, Lowry and Doig, so I knew those authors were worth another try, but several of these titles are brand new to me, and I hope I will find them worth finishing. I don’t want to fall asleep out of boredom!

By Max Liebermann

We laugh unknowing.


The moon is risen, beaming,
The golden stars are gleaming
So brightly in the skies;
The hushed, black woods are dreaming,
The mists, like phantoms seeming,
From meadows magically rise.

How still the world reposes,
While twilight round it closes,
So peaceful and so fair!
A quiet room for sleeping,
Into oblivion steeping
The day’s distress and sober care.

Look at the moon so lonely!
One half is shining only,
Yet she is round and bright;
Thus oft we laugh unknowing
At things that are not showing,
That still are hidden from our sight.

We, with our proud endeavour,
Are poor vain sinners ever,
There’s little that we know.
Frail cobwebs we are spinning,
Our goal we are not winning,
But straying farther as we go.

God, make us see Thy glory,
Distrust things transitory,
Delight in nothing vain!
Lord, here on earth stand by us,
To make us glad and pious,
And artless children once again!

Grant that, without much grieving,
This world we may be leaving
In gentle death at last.
And then do not forsake us,
But into heaven take us,
Lord God, oh, hold us fast!

Lie down, my friends, reposing,
Your eyes in God’s name closing.
How cold the night-wind blew!
Oh God, Thine anger keeping,
Now grant us peaceful sleeping,
And our sick neighbour too.

-Matthias Claudius (1740 – 1815)

We sleep and swim and sleep some more.

Except for the hum of my car’s engine, and the sound of rubber rolling on asphalt, the night was still, and pitch black. Pearl and I were driving on curvy roads the last hour up the mountain, at nearly 10 p.m., later than I’d ever done that. There was no moon, but reflectors shone from the snowplow markers on both sides. I kept slowing down as a precaution against hitting deer that might bound out in front of me, then I would forget about them and speed up, my high beams shining into the darkness giving me some confidence to push on. This was an eerie and unusual way to start a vacation at the lake.

She and I had stopped a ways back to shop for five day’s groceries for nine people, and we suspected that at least one of our group’s three vehicles would have arrived ahead of us. Yes, three people greeted us when we arrived, and two hours later, at midnight, the last carful, in which two-year-old Lora was riding. Her Aunt Maggie had been entertaining her all day, or they’d have been even later.

So, bedtime was very late that night (morning). But then the fun began! This cabin has two bedrooms with two beds each, but there is a carpet and sofa in the living room, and a large deck. The effects of the altitude are laughingly predictable: everyone sleeps a LOT. We sleep late, and various ones take naps morning, afternoon or evening.

Yesterday we found a gloriously deep and green swimming hole down the mountain a short way, plus a redwood grove to stroll. Lora was so pleased with the latter place, she hugged herself. Most everyone swam, and Lora and I reached through the limpid stream to collect sparkling pebbles from the bottom.

Lots of cabins and businesses have a bear out front, carved out of a log. The one at top is next door to our cabin. He never sleeps, but I am going to go to my bed now, and will tell you more tomorrow.

For a Sleepless Child


If your room is ever too dark,
small one, look out through your window
up at the moon, that little bulb
left on for you in the sky’s black wall.
It will still be there come morning,
burning in a bright room of blue.

And if your room, restless one,
is much too still, listen to the clatter
of the freight, rattling past trestles
on the cool night breeze. Then follow
the moon to the side of the tracks,
where the train is a long, slow dream

you can jump on. An open car
is waiting for you — one step up —
you’re on! Now watch the dark towns, the lights
deep in the porches, and lie down
in the soft straw, and sleep till morning,
when the train chugs into station,

noisy with birds and wires overhead.

~ Peter Schmitt

Late-Moon-Train-by (2)






Painting: Late Moon Train by Steve Coffey