Making Friends With the Dark


Breaking Dark (c) S. M. Glennon

“You just made friends with the night, that’s what you did.”

Philip Glass described the old overnight B&O train between Baltimore and Chicago.   He traveled the route as a young student, long before an ever-accessible interconnected cyberworld arrived–before even the minimal distraction of being able to traverse the train for a snack or see fellow travelers.  The lights went off at night.

In some of his music you still can hear his soundtrack for those long hours of darkness: the rhythmic contact of wheels on tracks, the metallic clacking and shusshing exhale.  After decades as a composer and musician Glass still hears it: “It’s built into the way I listened then and it’s still there.”

I had developed insomnia by the age of ten, plagued by ruminations about the world and its troubles.

I only fitfully slept through my husband’s Jim illness and for long after his death.  I would awaken suddenly to vivid nightmares–though certainly no more nightmarish than what Jim faced during his last weeks.  As terrible and numbing as were the days, I remained unable or unwilling to surrender my thoughts to the black river of night.

Jim never had any issue with sleep.

When still fighting the dark, it is difficult to overstate the envy with which life-long insomniacs regard those who can simply close their eyes and welcome refreshing sleep.  My envy extends even to animals–beagles who curl their warm bodies against each other and slumber in patches of sun, cats snuggling into any available nook, cranny, or human appendage and conking out.  I’ve never seen an animal wake up in a panic.

“How do you do that?” I asked Jim, not infrequently.

His trademark smile: “I sleep the sleep of the just.”


Now, finally, when I can’t get to sleep or I wake up long before dawn, I’ve learned to listen. Night is never completely silent any more than it is pure black. Sometimes it has gradations of blue and violet and gold long before a sliver of sunrise appears on the horizon.  A brilliant white moon can lighten night’s dark silhouettes into a milky gray-white.

When the lights are off and others sleep, night has its own melodies and rhythms–none of which I’d know if I weren’t awake in the dark in the place where my husband’s death left me.

Bird calls signal the season and the weather.  In my new neighborhood, two unusually melodic wind chimes ring in even a light breeze. My own ceramic Noah’s ark chimes tap against the clapboards outside my window only when the wind moves Northeast at a thunderous clip.

The soundtrack is no longer asphalt silence and the vista is not impenetrably black.  I realize that it never was.

I’m learning to make friends with the dark.

About Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She also is an adjunct professor at a law school on the banks of the Charles and loves that dirty water, as she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2020 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with Wordpress protocol and the numerous other wee buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.
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8 Responses to Making Friends With the Dark

  1. A topic certainly of interest to many people. As I’ve gotten older, a good night’s sleep has evaded me most nights. And, as bad as it is, when the time changes in spring and fall,l it sets me back further for weeks. Here’s to a good night sleep for everyone. 🙂

  2. BellyBytes says:

    ah the joys of a good night’s sleep…..

  3. angharadeyre says:

    I love your writing – thanks for sharing.

  4. You write so well. I love this piece.

    Sleep well, Stephanie. The dark is your friend.

  5. Allan G. Smorra says:

    This is a very touching post, thanks for sharing with us. The story about Phillip Glass interests me as I have always lived within earshot of railroad tracks until we moved into our current house. The sound of the wheels and the occasional whistle strike a deep chord whenever I hear them. Ω

  6. scillagrace says:

    Steve uses a phrase to encourage me to face whatever I’m averse to: invite it to the dinner table. Making friends with my ‘demons’ by inviting them to the dinner table gives them a chance to inform me of whatever it is they are trying to say and me a chance to thank them and invite them to be excused, if I wish.

  7. ann martin says:

    Thank you for this beautifully expressed view of your ability to cope — you turn difficulties into positive experiences — it’s so very impressive to all of us.

  8. dunelight says:

    Sleep of the just…

    My favorite night sound is freight trains in the distance. Actually it is the call of Loons across a lake but I am far more likely to hear freight trains.

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