by Jennifer Lang
I want to praise my sleep cycle that knocks me out at night—usually around 11:10—and steers me straight to REM. I want to praise REM, which lasts an unknown amount of time until it doesn’t and ends in awareness. I want to praise awareness at some undesirable hour of the morning—perhaps at 2:01, or 3:06, but possibly 4:18—when I roll onto my right side, bend my knees into a fetal position, and breathe—only to change sides in the hope that lying on my left side will switch off my mind. I want to praise my mind, which stirs in the darkest, stillest hours, convincing me to empty my bladder, and only feels satisfied after I stumble to the toilet. I want to praise the toilet, whose gelid seat makes me shudder—in a microscopic movement that travels from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head. I want to praise my head, which spins like a carrousel as I lie on my back, cover my eyes with my pajama top, and put in earplugs to drown out my husband’s snoring. I want to praise my husband’s snoring, which permeates even those made-in-China, bought-in-America earplugs, intended for builders and welders and anyone who works with loud machinery, and which prevent me from hearing everything else, including my own breath. I want to praise my breath—inhaling from the belly, ribs, chest—a technique learned in yoga, which has calmed me during childbirth and emergencies, before my mother’s brain surgery, after my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and throughout a midlife reckoning. I want to praise midlife reckoning that has caused my estrogen and progesterone levels to plummet, made me question my marriage, my path, and my choices, and made me wonder what was left, what was next, between then and the days to follow. I want to praise the days that followed, full of pandemic-induced stillness that forced me to slow down and treasure the easy-to-overlook moments like Facetime with family far away, phone calls with friends nearby, and a cup of Earl Grey tea on my balcony. I want to praise my balcony, where the sun hits the side of my face each morning around 9:48, while I witness the world on pause, again and again and again.
About the photographer: Brian Michael Barbeito is a nature poet and landscape photographer. A novelette is forthcoming in 2021 at The Notre Dame Review. Brian is at work on an ongoing written and visual nature narrative titled “Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Rural.”