Sleep, How Strange It Is by
(40 Stories)

Prompted By Sleepy Time

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Sleep, how strange it is.  That we live in two worlds, the world of consciousness and the world of lack thereof, with the latter including all manner of unconscious brain activity, most commonly sleep (but other times when the conscious brain is locked out, like coma, head trauma, possibly death). What the hell is going on in my head when I sleep?

On the other hand, what the hell is going on in my head when I am awake?

List of sleep-related activities:

  1. Insomnia
  2. Dreams
  3. Anxiety dreams
  4. Recurrent anxiety dreams
  5. Opening the window
  6. Charging air pods
  7. Seeing into darkness
  8. The miracle of Audible
  9. Indigestion
  10. Closing the window
  11. Being one with the night
  12. Sharing the night
  13. Breathing the night
  14. Listening to night birds
  15. Listening to predators catch their prey and their prey scream murder
  16. Hearing silence
  17. Hearing crickets, in season
  18. Hearing waves, when available
  19. Hearing thunder, rain, and wind (like a freight train)
  20. Remembering the horribleness of overnight radio in the 50s and 60s, the province of the lost, and myself
  21. Hearing the first airplane of the morning, in the pre-dawn
  22. Seeing the first band of pink in the sky
  23. The miracle of going back to sleep

The miracle of going back to sleep.
Profile photo of jonathancanter jonathancanter
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Susan Bennet says:

    Great story. Would you like to dispense of one of your sleep-related activities, Jonathan? I’ll take Birds for a hundred, please, because I already have them. Worse, I also have the pre-dawn birds, an unwanted alarm clock that does not quit. Sleepless birds rule the roost.

    • I usually welcome the night birds (my neighborhood night birds) into my ear range, sharing the night with me, communicating with each other in ways mostly beyond my human brain but sometimes crossing specie barriers. Sounds like you like the birds.

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    An evocative list!
    1: Oh yeah. An old companion.
    14: Discovering that mourning doves get up VERY early, starting their day with soft trilling sounds. Their “mourning” call starts about an hour later, still well before sunrise.
    18: I lived not far from a major commercial shipping channel. I often drifted off to the sound of foghorns.
    20: I sort of like “The Milkman’s Matinee.”
    23: Or trying not to, because that particular nightmare might come back again.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Great list Jonathan. Now that I live closer to the L-train, that rumbling sound rocks me to sleep. That and taking out my hearing aides (LOL).

  4. Suzy says:

    Jon, great list of nighttime activities, especially 5. Opening the window, followed shortly by 10. Closing the window. There’s a wonderful rhythm to it all, especially because of the several that include the word “night,” and the several that start with the word “hearing.” Thanks for this excellent contribution to the prompt.

  5. Thanx Jon for reminding me how I sleep thru ambulances, sirens, and all the city sounds, but in the county – oh that nocturnal woodpecker so busy outside our bedroom window!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    I really enjoyed this list, the pleasures of a world at night, and the aggravations. I will just add reading through this list at 4 am (as I am) unable to sleep for some of your reasons.

  7. John Shutkin says:

    Terrific, imaginative story, Jon. I love using lists illustratively in stories, even though I know that invoking them invitesd all sorts of second guessing by readers as to what was included and what was omitted.

    For my part, I would say that I especially resonated to #14 (are there more, louder night birds out there or am I just more aware of them?) and #20 (listening to the repeated overnight ads on WABC for “Denison’s, a men’s clothier in Union, New Jersy on Route 22 in Union, New Jersey, near the flagship. It’s coffee break time now at Denison’s….”)

    • Thank you John.
      If I live another 50 years I might learn to distinguish the song of one night bird from another, but as of now they are all part of the chorus. As to your memory of WABC, it sounds like a hard thing to carry around; there should be a refuse bin with a tight lid for such memories. I remember piped out of NYC and bouncing of the ozone to Boston, Long John Nebel (sp?), and in Boston there was an overnight fellow named Larry Glick. I really craved for a human voice, rather than the music.

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Interesting, provocative list, Jon. I particularly like “listening to silence”, which feels like an oxymoron, but of course isn’t. You brought to mind two songs: one the old Simon and Garfinkle “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”…which I loved in its day (and still do). But also (since I’m a Broadway fan, Sky Masterson’s song (in “Guys and Dolls”) as he brings Sarah home from Cuba very early in the morning and sings, “My time of day is the dark time, a couple of deals before dawn. When the streets belong to the cop, and the janitors with the mop, and the grocery clerks are all gone.”

    They both speak of darkness but in very different ways, just as you find all sorts of sounds and activities during your restless nights, hoping that you will again find the embrace of sleep.

    • Thank you.
      Sometimes, like this minute when I am wide awake at my breakfast table, with daytime streaming in around me and all things visible, I think back to the darkness of the night, its darkness, its sounds, its slow out-of-time pace, and miss it.

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