There are magical hours. Between midnight and 3 a.m. Everything I do seems more real than at any other time.
I have finished more gripping novels in this time period that any other. Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night being this weekend’s most recent addition to a list which also includes the first book in Fellowship of the Ring, C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces, various sundry John Grisham novels and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, just to name a few. I remember as a teenager, curled up in the armchair in the family room for most of the night, physically propping my eyelids open so that I could finish the book I was reading. Or if I couldn’t finish it, at least I needed to “get to a safe place” where the main character was not in any immediate danger. Then maybe I could talk myself into going down the dark staircase to my room and creeping under the covers for the last few hours of the night.
On other occasions, I have even been known to seize mop and bucket, or dust rag and disinfectant spray, determined to take measurable steps to enact change in my life. And it feels good. And maybe it’s only at 2 a.m. that mopping the kitchen floor seems like seizing destiny with my own two hands. It’s silly, I know, but there it is.
When I wasn’t living on the West Coast, these hours were sometimes celebrated with late night phone conversations, mostly with folks in other time zones, but sometimes also with kindred souls who also used dreamtime to do a more intentional kind of dreaming.
And when I say intentional dreaming, I mean the kind that involves spinning tall castles out of the wispy gauze of a vague desire to go somewhere else or be someone other than who I am. Once, during college, I spent a night like this planning an entire vacation: a walking tour of Ireland. It was a pretty detailed itinerary, with bed and breakfasts dug up out of online directories, points of interest noted, and famous pubs put on the route. I don’t think I had a paper due the next day, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there had been one the day after that which hadn’t been started. But let’s not delve into my GPA here. It’s just kind of amazing how tangible such things can feel to the semi-functional brain during what my grandma calls the “wee sma’s”
Every lofty plan from sailing ‘round the world (in a beautiful pea-green boat) to becoming a tour guide on a cruise ship, to owning my own used-book shop has been fostered, researched and planned during this time. I started writing a novel; I resolved to learn Italian; I’ve collaged pictures far into the night; I created a reading list that was five-typed (single-space, 12p. Times New Roman) pages long.
The witching hours bring dreams so real I could almost drink them. But unless I do something; book the ticket, send off the job application, submit the essay, print and market the rendering, make a down payment on the building, or file for the business license, the seeming tangibility is a lie.
The fact is, the sun arrives and finds me: fallen asleep, face smushed against the pages of my journal, pen fallen from my hand, light still on. My life goals every bit as incomplete as the day before, as long as I only undertake them between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.