night watches

acrylic and mixed media on poster board, 2011

That night I kept watch. My journal lay open on my desk but I mainly just looked at the small breathing forms of the hatchlings. The rest of the aquatic doodle bugs continued their dance. I had switched off all but a small desk light, barely enough to illuminate the surface of my workplace. When I looked up the darkness in front of my window seemed impenetrable for a moment until my eyes adjusted to the night. The rook was still perched on a high branch of the acorn, solemnly keeping watch with me. I knew that my sister was probably asleep by now but that my mother would be painting until the early hours.
Keeping watch. It was strange to be quiet, just watching. It occurred to me that most of the time we are actively doing something, except for the few moments when we are waiting in between scheduled activities. But even waiting, to be precise, is a form of activity. It is seldom that we just empty our minds. I said I was keeping watch that night, and that was true, but I wasn’t really waiting for anything to happen. Of course I expected the hatchlings to start moving around in the tank at some point, but I was not impatient for that moment nor was my wish to see them swimming the reason for my sitting at the desk. There was a moment when I realized that I was not, indeed, waiting. There was something else I had to do. I had to try to comprehend the reality of what was happening right here, in my room, on my ordinary student desk, before my very eyes. And in order to understand that this was real, not a fantasy, not a dream, I needed to sit still and open my mind.
It is difficult to describe how time changes when you stop. Just stop. I thought then I knew that time was space, a blue space in which I was suspended like the mermaids in their green world. Time was a wide room with neither up nor down, neither front or back. As I sat in the night, the world that was not human started whispering in a multitude of voices. I thought of my little sister. Did she still hear these voices? Was she awake to all of this?
I listened to the slight hissing sound the radiator valves produced, to the occasional car engine, I listened to the night in front of my window, the rustling of branches, I thought I even heard the rook shifting feet in its watchful sleep. The red stone in my tank glowed silently, and even the silence had a sound to it because I was in the silence.

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