Night Watch


At three in the morning, I’m drawn from peaceful slumbers to this cold chair. My heavy eyelids stare, unblinking, at the marble lamp, the white circle of light in this midnight corner of the house. A night owl writing morning pages before dawn… What is it that keeps me awake?

Songs and sonnets and maid-of-honor speeches. Friendships and failures and shopping lists. Errands. A mother’s love. A sixtieth anniversary scrapbook. A birthday. A new baby’s christening. A Sunday school rumor. A lost dog and backyard cherry trees. Rhubarb. Strawberry shortcake. Gardening plans. The stack of papers to sort on the corner of the sofa. The dishwasher to unload. The month-end report that’s overdue.

Forward and back, my mind flies through memories and dreams, mundane to-dos, leaps and bounds.

And I think of you, whoever you might be, awake and alone like me, drawn from your bed to a thousand other thoughts, all your own cares, worries, and loves. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” awake before sunrise. Together in shared silence, divided in time and space and distance.

I don’t know you, but are we so different? Me here on the cold tile floor and you in your slippers, each carrying a world inside us of lifelong griefs and joys, reveries, unspoken hopes, and plans for the days ahead.

I won’t recognize you tomorrow, if we happen to pass on the street, at the market, on the freeway. But just for this moment, let me pray a blessing on you. For peace… For joy… I pray you feel loved tomorrow, and I pray that somewhere, during the course of your day, you find someone to show unexpected kindness to.

The world needs more of that, doesn’t it? Strangers taking time to smile, to say thank you… I see you… I remember.