this is what my subconscious sounds like …


Insomnia Diaries — 7/20/2014


if i should be

then oh — let the gods make me
a bird

to sing my secrets to the ear


at night the bush below my window
burns —

the nest inside
catching like tinder.

one small bird leaps up,
alight, feathers on fire,

its body beating and beating
against my windowpane

its song one long scream
that tears through my sleep.


in the dream that comes later,
it breaks the glass —

(a fist)

(a torch)

and goes careening room to room,
setting the whole house




{A note on the text:  The excerpt above is part of a brief series on living with insomnia, and it’s taken from my personal Insomnia Diaries … a collection of post-midnight scribblings that help me understand what’s going on in my sleep-deprived brain.

This is darker than my usual fare, and — if I’m being honest — I hesitated to post it.  I am sharing, however, in the hopes that my words might help you understand the insomniac in your life just a little bit better.

And another thing: the subconscious can be a scary place, but it has much to teach us.

For that I’m grateful. ❤ }


Flashback: what an insomniac doesn’t tell you…

Yesterday, I told you that I’d spend this week talking a little bit about my struggle with insomnia:

Its darkness…  

And its light. 

The post below is the first I ever wrote about my disordered sleeping patterns … And as far as I can tell, it’s the *only* post in which I ever talked about it overtly.

Somehow, that seemed like a good place to begin.


I like the world best by morning light…


The way it pushes into the room through every opening.

The way it fills up every space with an invitation to begin, now, while the canvas is blank and the page uncluttered.

I am an insomniac.  I have been for all my life, starting from the moment I was born.  I screamed through every night as a child, terrorized by my own thoughts — the regrettable dark underside of a vivid imagination.

As an adult, I’ve learned to wear my sleeplessness with quiet tolerance.  To rub concealer over the dark circles and go smiling into the day.  Still, I often say that Insomnia is the loneliest small town in the world – Population 1 – and in that loneliness and silence comes a cacophony of thought, words, wonderings, memories, shadows, dark stains in the gray matter, neurons like flashbulbs, firing and firing into the dark.

And then the morning comes.

And the thoughts sort themselves back into boxes.

The lids of the boxes are closed.

The light spills in again.

Those first moments when I open my eyes and drink in the clear white sundazzle — those are the ones I treasure most.

I take a deep breath, and I begin. ❤


the things I don’t want you to know about me…


Can I tell you a secret?  

Almost a month ago, our little corner of the world observed Insomnia Awareness Day … and I didn’t write a word.

That’s bothering me now.  

Truth be told, I make an excellent voice for those of us who suffer from insomnia.  I came into the world sleepless and howling, and I’ve pretty much stayed that way ever since.  But I don’t post often about my disordered sleep, at least partly because … well… It’s dark.

Insomnia is hard.  It’s not just hard because it’s exhausting (and sometimes it is).  It’s hard because on a lot of nights, the things happening in my amygdala are honestly kinda terrifying.  And I figure most people don’t want to hear about the shadows tearing around my room at 4 a.m.

But if you visit this site regularly in hopes of finding light and beauty and magic, you should know this:  some mornings, the light finds its way here because I have to fight for it. 

And while that’s hard, I think it’s sort-of beautiful, too.

With that in mind, this week you’ll find a short series of posts about life in my strange, sleepless little nighttime universe. I’ll include one or two entries from my personal Insomnia Diaries — post-midnight scribblings that help me make sense of what’s going on in my overactive brain.  I find them interesting from an artistic perspective, but more importantly, they testify to an important truth:

Most of the time, we push into the light through a hallway of shadows.

I hope you’ll join me, but if this part of the journey isn’t for you, rest assured that these pages will be back to normal by the weekend.

Sweet dreams, friends.  I’m grateful you’re here. ❤




When the Past is a Pool of Water by the River’s Edge

I scramble down the trail to the ravine, feet sliding on loose rocks, camera balanced on one hip.  When I catch my breath, I look up to see what I’ve come for:  the river, twisting green in the sun.

This is the place I come to when I need to think about the Past — need the sensation of something rushing away, disappearing around a bend. Today, though, as I leap across a line of boulders near the river’s edge, the Past just won’t recede.  A quiet hurt still lingers — as if dirty water washed over me and left a residue — and I can’t seem to scrub it from the gray matter.

Oh, mercy, I whisper:


Sometimes it seems like the only prayer I know.


It would be an easy mistake, whether you know me by my words or in everyday life, to misread my gentleness as a deeper form of goodness.  To see me as the most shiny and unblemished sort of saint:  sweet-faced.  Sweet-voiced.  White-frocked, well-dressed — eternally clean.

People make this mistake all the time.

But the truth is, if I’m a saint, I’m one with skinned knees and a dented halo — a sinner, stumbling drunkenly toward some holy glow.  I’m a complicated creature, drawn toward complicated situations, with a penchant for getting lost … and when the Maker knit me together in my mother’s womb, he gave me the blessing and curse of a wandering heart and a ravenous mind.

Thank Heaven, he also made me a mouth to cry for mercy.


So I stand on the river’s edge, praying and shooting:  white water, muscling through rapids.  The light shattered like a mirror on the rocks.

Don’t let all this beauty fool you, I think.  This is a dangerous place.  Hikers have been swept to their deaths here, and the rangers have posted signs telling me so.

But my stubborn heart never could heed a warning.  And besides:  any place you go to hurl the hurt away from you is a place where you might be dragged under with it, if you don’t know when to let go.




On this day, the mercy comes as a flash of light at my feet.  I look down and see where the river has pooled in the boulders.  The pools have polished the stone smooth, and the water within is skinned with green moss.

I drop to my knees and adjust the lens. And I understand then, with this palmful of water in my viewfinder, that there are places in the heart where the past can get caught — where the hurt forms a pool. And who knows, then, how long it takes for such a wound to heal?  For a hollow of water to evaporate into sky??

But.  Even a moss-clouded pool reflects the sun, however faintly:


Even a scar is a wound that has healed, in its way…


I leap from the rocks to the sand.  Walk toward where the river curves in a calmer stretch.  My eyes hunt through the wreckage of old floods:  bottles and broken glass.  Tires.  Twisted tree limbs.

And I’ll tell you:  there is beauty everywhere, if you know how to look.  If you have eyes trained by mercy.

I stand very still. I am waiting, I guess, for the sun to make its way down into these small pools.  To turn them into flame.

I breathe — breathe — my fingertip tingling against the shutter button.

I’ll tell you a secret that every good sinner knows:

rocks The Mercy is already here.  ❤

Everyday Wonder

When I want the Truth, I walk into the woods …

Today, I walk into the forest looking for the Light.

photo 2

I have been a hunter of light for some time now, and experience has taught me that if you want to see it best, you must look for it in the dark.

So I follow the trail until it’s swallowed in shadow.  I walk, and keep walking, to the heart of the woods, where the leaves are so thick that the wind can barely get through.

I listen to the rain on the canopy and don’t feel a drop — listen for birdsong and hear nothing.

And then, this:

photo 1

The sun like a fist, cracking the dark wide open.

I stand there shooting until I feel my soul open, too. ❤


The Way of Escape

You find yourself
in a windowless room —
the walls crumbling plaster, gray.

(I know this because I am there too).

You don’t know how long you’ve been there, but you know it’s been a long time, because there’s a hunger in the back of your eyes:  for color, light — carmine, sun-yellow, cobalt.

Your body is stiff, hunched, the bones nearly bent. The ceiling is too low for you to stand, the walls too close for you to lie straight.

Even your breath feels bound.

But there’s a sledgehammer —  (do you see it?) — maybe it looks like a paintbrush, or a pen. Maybe the handle is wrapped in ribbons, or lace. Maybe it takes the form of a guitar, a garden spade — It could look like anything.

You already know.

Take it in your hands. (The art is the way out.)

Lift it — feel the counterbalance of its heavy head, its long handle.

You do not have to be
You do not have to be
You do not have to be
an expert.

You just have to be desperate. Which — look around — you are.

Gray bare walls,
(The art is the way out)
Gray lightless ceiling,
(Lift it now, 
pull back your arms)
That thirst in your throat
(Lift it),
That hunger,
oh, God —

The art is the way out.