LET'S SLEEP IN
Before the phone alarm springs into life I am awake, in the dark. Focusing on my breathing. Watching the list of everything I must do today scroll through my mind, mentally noting urgent deadlines and overdue emails, neglected correspondence, unfinished plans.
The cockerel is awake too; I hear him calling from the coop, once, twice, announcing the coming of day in his bold croaking song. We wait together in the small hours for the dawn to arrive.
And yet by the time the alarm springs into life I am deep in slumber once more. Lost to the rich deep dreams of the pre-dawn, the plunge into sleep so all encompassing in those precious minutes. Reality swims around me slowly; I am rising from a great depth. Limbs heavy, body warm, I pries my eyes open, try to tap back into the clarity I had felt in the darkness. The deadlines that had pressed on me shimmer, distant in the grey half-light. I wonder what felt so urgent, when all that seems pressing now is the warm cocoon I am in. I ignore the second buzz; snooze the sound almost before it’s begun. Snooze, such a beguiling word, that one, when compared with the alternative.
O, let’s sleep in, my love, let’s ignore all the things we have not done.
Let’s bring the coffee back to bed; let’s doze and drift and dream, while the day unfolds outside our door unseen.
Let’s stay here, in this dark bedroom, listen to the rain on the roof. Let’s not light the fire or open the laptop, let’s keep the world out for an hour or two. Let’s hold each other, let our breath be the soundtrack, let the furry slump of the cat weight down the blankets and keep the warmth of our bodies sacred in the space beneath the covers.
Past eight o clock, I finally rise. Pull on yesterday’s jumper, enough layers to carry me down the path to let out the hens, waiting quietly, patiently in their coop. Somewhere the sun has risen, but the valley is invisible beneath a thick white cloud. We are in the sky, here in the little mountain house, and no beam of light has yet pierced our dream cloud. The dogs heave themselves from their beds when I open the door to the workshop where they lie; they have slept late too.
Sleep in, let’s sleep in. Farm lie-ins involve a stumble outside, pulling raincoat and wellies over pyjamas. At this time of year, the chores can be ticked off in a matter of minutes. There are no plants to be tended before the heat of summer hits the land. I crunch across frozen ground. Strands of icy cobwebs like pencil lines link the old olive tree with the slate fence post that marks the boundary of the farm.
Under cover of the fog I scatter grain for the hens, gather the dogs back up, return to put coffee on the stove. We sleep, still, under the dream cloud. A steaming mug brought back to bed, to snuggle and snooze and fall back into the dreaming waking state.
To sleep in. Even as I shed my city self, it feels like a challenge. There’s work to be done. My inbox is calling. There are deadlines to be met, Skypes to be had, visions to be dreamt.
I don’t sleep in because if I could just get caught up, just this once, begin to write before dawn, then maybe I’d release the pressure. Wouldn’t get to Friday harried and rushed, rattling through the things I have achieved, the sinking feeling on my chest reminding me of everything I haven’t.
After all, it’s hard enough to do the things that must be accomplished. Fulfil the promises, the duties. Then there are the good resolutions, the creative projects. The morning rituals and the hashtag challenges, the social media call and response, communications and new connections, opportunity, hustle, never ending.
Under the dream cloud, the land tells a different story. On a winter’s morning, even the air feels still. Mist hides the land, covering over all the beds we have not weeded, all the trees left unpruned.
Long after it is light the clouds lift slowly off the floor of the valley, to reveal a land stopped in chaos.
Autumn’s leaves lying where they fell, a fibrous slush rotting into the ground. Unpicked quinces shrivel and blacken on the tree. When the urge to crawl into a warm nest comes, it is followed. The earth has tolled, and its inhabitants obey the signal, just as the swallows heeded the call of Africa those months ago. I no longer swat mosquitos from my skin, the sap has slowed and stopped beneath the bark of the trees. The land is quenched beneath the frost. This is winter, and it is time to sleep in.
We do not rest because there is nothing to be done. We rest because it is time.
Were we to work and create and grow all year, there would be no time for the rich mulch to form at the roots of the trees. No time for us to gather our strength, to hunker down and renew our bonds with each other. By our resting, we allow what will want to be done in spring to emerge.
Sleep in, let’s sleep in my love. Beneath the dream cloud let’s move slowly, shut the world out for another hour. Let the days dissolve into one another, punctuated with woodfired evenings and candlelit nights. Let’s read, and sleep, and dally and dream. Let’s be lazy, unproductive, let’s sink back into stillness.
The world will still be there when we awake.
Madeleine Forbes is a writer currently living on a tiny off-grid farm in the hills of central Portugal, surrounded by a growing menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Originally from London, moving closer to the wild inspired her to found The Seasoned Year, helping us reconnect to seasonal cycles and the wisdom they hold.