It is the time of night when there is silence; no cars or buses on the street below, the last of revelers have left the pub and wandered to their perspective homes. It is cold. I lay in my warm bed, contemplating natures call, weighing the feel of the cold floor against the need to relieve myself. Nature wins, as always at my age. I rise, I can see because through the blinds there is a full moon that filters in iridescent tracks on my wooden floor. I stagger to the bathroom.
Back in my bedroom, I have to peek out of my window, through the red curtains, at the sky. I do this every night. I live on the third floor of my building so I am half way up and half way down; street below, sky above. In the summer, the sky is obscured by large maple trees, but in the winter, I have a clear view through tangled branches.
There are stars, a little muted by light pollution, but if I stare very intently, I can catch them twinkling. There is a moon, somewhere overhead, it's cold presence creates sharp shadows on the pavement below. I look to see what is out there at 3a.m, a world all its own, different from my 8a.m. world of people rushing to work, catching buses, the local chapter of A.A. leaving the restaurant they meet in. This world has raccoon families darting through the dumpsters, cats sitting on gates and silence. I know, out there, there are people sleeping in doorways, night workers going to their jobs; but here, and now it is just the empty street, the starry sky and me, with cold toes. I think of Philip Larkin's poem, Sad Steps:
Groping back to bed after a piss
I part the thick curtains, and am startled by
the rapid clouds, the moon's cleanliness
I think my late night obsession with looking through the drapes at the sky must have come from reading this poem. I look for that clean moon, and once in awhile can see it just barely through the west window, between our building and the one one next to us.
I love the moon, it is, of course, no longer mysterious, no longer made of green cheese. It has junk all over it, and footprints and a flag or two. But I cannot see this from my window. I can see the faint smile of the old man's face. The Japanese see a rabbit, which if I strain and squint, can see too. Mr. Larkin saw something different;
High and preposterous and separate-
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No...
He saw the lozenge of the Eucharist in the sky, the holy tablet used in mass. He saw Art..but he rejects them all at 4 a.m. and chooses to see the a hard, bright plain orb that is a reminder of youth lost for him, but still alive for others younger. He sees death in that orb, the passing of his time and his life.
They are sad steps, those that lead him to the window, but for me they are more curious then sad. I do not see my youth gone in that globe, I see an otherness that exists in spite of me. And this otherness is reflective of a greater light; it illuminates the night by borrowing its power. I feel better for this, because it takes the pressure off of me. I can be the moon, reflective of greater light, through my art, I am not the light itself. I suppose, like Larkin, I find the night sky startling sometimes, and when I let my mind stop romanticizing the moon and stars, I am quite overwhelmed with the vastness of universe that lays out side my vision. I am small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. None the less, as I return to my bed, and pull up the covers around my head, I am more relaxed knowing that I am a part of this, that I am moving in this and through it. Sleep comes again, at least for a while.