This time of year the house feels as confining as an elevator. We don’t have a screened porch, so a few years back, I bought a screeny tent. Every year I pitch it at a short remove from the house. My husband prefers air-conditioning, so when he is out of town, as he was this week, I take the opportunity to sleep outdoors.
I make it as tempting as can be—a well-cushioned cot, a good pillow, a bit of sheet, a puff of sleeping bag for chilly nights. I used to have to pack a flashlight and my book. Now I can read myself to sleep on my phone, which also has a flashlight app and another our modern marvels, the Star Walk app. Point the phone to the night sky and see the stars and constellations spelled above you. I don’t always use it, because it occasionally spooks me, these hovering big pictures. They must have been a comfort in the olden, wilder days, but it’s nice to have some unimaged places.
What is it about sleeping out as the days lengthen? It’s not that I sleep more soundly. Little animal noises wake me up. Traffic rumbles more distinctly. Often once, twice, or three times a night, my dog Bee barks a blue streak, defending me from mysteries only she perceives.
But I can’t forgo the air on these spring nights. Feathery breezes, fresh and primal scents of accelerating growth, susurrus of insects. To be another breathing body in the night, a part of Earth.
And somehow this body feeds on the subtle shifts in light—moon dropping over the trees, the moon in all her lumpy in-between shapes. Not just the elegant Ali-Baba crescent, or the pointy Magritte slice, or the full moon, face of longing and fulfillment, but the ordinary egg moon, the glop of batter moon, the melting in-between moon, the plumping crooked tuber moon. The moons we miss indoors.
Later still, pearling sky, break of birdsong, gilded treetops and the light-planked trunks of sunrise. The eye catches nodes along the bark, like valves on instruments, discerns the firming tissues of the leaves, music visible.
Sleep out because of all that is awakened sleeping so.
Do you ever sleep out?