A Sleepless Night

The elderly, the sick and the parents of new-born children tend to be more familiar with sleepless nights than most people. When in ‘holy mode’ I advocate trying to pray. Nothing is more likely to induce slumber than turning mind and heart towards the Lord at an unexpected hour. Alternatively, one can listen to the BBC World Service (I learned more about lithium last night than I ever dreamed possible), finish the last chapter of one’s current book or three, or toss and turn as one reflects on the various difficulties and anxieties facing oneself or those one loves. Once one has exhausted those possibilities there is nothing left but to listen to the sounds of the house and of the night.

We are fortunate to live in a converted barn on the edge of the Golden Valley, a beautiful part of rural Herefordshire with a long monastic history behind it. The old oak timbers of our house are constantly moving slightly: they creak and groan softly, and when the wind and rain blow, as they did last night, they utter a quiet protest. The garden makes its own response. I love listening to the snuffles and squeaks of whatever is abroad in the night-time, beginning with bats at dusk and moving through a whole range of owls and rabbits and foxes, with the occasional rough bark of a deer or perhaps the husky note of a badger out on patrol.

There is more to this than finding a way of passing time. To listen to the sounds of night as they come from house and garden is to reconnect with the world in which we live and for which, often enough, we have no time except when we make a point of going for a walk or doing some gardening. I can’t do either of those, so listening to the soundscape of where I live matters. It is another way of seeking the Lord — and being found by him. A sleepless night may leave one feeling tired and crotchety next morning, but it is never wasted. It is an opportunity to be relished.


9 thoughts on “A Sleepless Night”

  1. Thank you! There are so many things to relish and be thankful for. I, sadly, can’t hear the bats any more, although they are still there and give me great pleasure when I see them darting around in the evening , but what an extraordinary joy it was this morning to see the brilliant sun on the sparkling snow.

  2. Oh what a lovely piece this is! It can be extremely frustrating to lie awake (with or without Gilbert’s “dismal headache”) so good to have some positivity. It depends for me WHEN the sleeplessness occurs – around midnight is a good time to pray and perhaps I won’t get up so early the next day. I think I may well tap into the World Service; it fills bits of the social consciousness that other media can’t reach. Thank you again – from one monastic site to another

  3. Oh how this resonated with me this morning. I’m so lucky where I live being right on the edge of a big city. Last night a Tawny Owl perched in the Laburnum tree and this morning the badger revealed it’s visit in the light snow dust. Walking I heard the calls of lapwings and curlews, the baaing of lambs nestling against their mothers for warmth. I gave thanks to God and remembered Louis Armstrong’s song ‘What a Wonderful World’. Thank you for this blog.

    • When I was young Hans Kung RIP a few sentences was enough to help me drift off. Now Michael Harding podcast helps or the trusty World service.

  4. Dear Sr Catherine ~ I will listen to the sounds of the summer desert nights very differently now! Thank you for this beautiful insight!

  5. Never wasted. Thank you. Contemplative prayer has helped me hugely through some difficult nights in the last year, not only in prayer but in getting to sleep.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful reflection, I have many sleepless night, I try to pray each night when I go to bed, but sometimes I am unable to do so as my thoughts start to wonder and I find lots of irrelevant thoughts interrupting my prayer, I will try to put this into action. Once again thank you for your daily prayer, it is inspirational.

  7. Thank you for this. I needed a nudge to remind me to view my wretched sleeplessness from a new perspective, as not another disastrous night but an opportunity.

Comments are closed.