Friday, January 14, 2011

Hymn to Vampire Hours... and farmers?

Vampire hours are a lot of fun, and have a certain allure. There is something delicious about rising hours before sunset, bleary-eyed over my first cup of coffee as I huddle in my pajamas waiting for its descent. Afterwards, I feel singled out upon the earth, as if those of us who keep the night shine more brightly because so many others lay sleep-dimmed or altogether doused. It's a special kind of creativity for me. Winter stars are sharper. The winter moon is farther away but more observant of her acolytes. Summer nights are almost decadent in their fullness. Our famous Southern heat settles like a robe I've slipped out of and left forgotten somewhere, leaving me to walk, unfettered, under a hazy night sky. Southern midnights don't follow clocks, either; sometimes they last an hour, sometimes two or three, but always there is music, an ebb and swell of crickets, cicadas, tree frogs, and other, wilder things with names that tease the edges of recognition but dare not reveal.

Waffle House tastes better after midnight. Bad news waits until morning, but it doesn't matter, for you will be asleep then, safe in your vampire cocoon. Cotton is softest before dawn. The best ideas come in the middle of the night, because there are fewer people awake to write them down. You never have to wait in line at Wal-Mart. Your yard looks as fabulous as your neighbor's, because you can't tell how long your grass really is unless you invest in high-powered front lawn illumination. (Don't.)

But for me, the calendar turns, children return to school, universities open their doors, and UPS does not offer a vampire delivery option. So sometimes I am forced to give up my vampire hours. What to do? After years of fighting against what I thought was my natural nocturnal setting, imagine my shock when I recently realized I could function on Farmer Time.

Yes, I know. I'm not over the shock, either.

After years of embracing a vampire hour lifestyle, I have discovered that I am almost equally happy rising just as the sun hits the sky. Most of the world is equally asleep then too. If they are not, then they are just waking up, with scrambled brains that hardly count as awake. After a few sweet whispers to my Keurig coffee maker, I am in fairly good spirits as the sun climbs ever higher and I sit down to work. What's happened? Why did it take me so long to figure out I had an alternate setting? I have no idea. Perhaps the vampire hours club (if there is such a thing) will take away my membership card. I don't know.

My sleeping patterns affect everything from my creative output to the degree of noir I manage to inject into my writing to how in or out of step with the rest of the world I manage to be. This in itself is a revelation. The me of not so very long ago wouldn't have cared how hard or fast I drove my body. I know now in order to exist as a productive human being, I have to have sleep. For me, that sleep has exactly two speeds: vampire, and farmer. After all, I have ever been a creature of extremes. Vampire or Farmer. Day or night. College drop-out or Ph.D. Concerned nurturing parent or shot-slamming party girl. Sleep is important, but the concept of vampire hours is deeper than that. It's a unique perspective I hope to embrace again soon.

As in, "when's the next school break?" kind of soon. 

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