When I read this quote from Henry Ward Beecher, “We sleep, but the loom of life never stops, and the pattern which was weaving when the sun went down is weaving when it comes up in the morning,” my initial reaction was fear-based. I didn’t see a litany of bright colors weaving together with other colors to form the richness, the fabric of life that constantly renews and goes on and on. Some other psychological switch had been flicked. And multiple reasons as to why trickled down through the possible issues in search of a river to lead it to the ocean, the understanding.
The Trickle: an image of a gigantic mechanism was there. Wood and metal and gears came up, courtesy of the loom reference. The loom of life. The mechanical, bloodless thing of life. Advancing steadily. An unmanned steamroller with the ignition and kill switches both jammed. Life may be an impersonal Source or a white-bearded, incomprehensible God, but what most of us feel, and know for sure, is before us—warmth of presence, of touch, day to day. Today, soft or rough skin, silky or course hair, violet, hazel, ice blue, grey, chocolate eyes looking at us, asking us, telling us, teaching, learning, giving, taking. Until there are no more days. It’s as simple as that.
The River: when I lie down at night, the mentality is the flipping of a shop sign from Open to Closed. I am my world and when I’ve decided I’ve had enough of the day I shut it down. And people in different time zones all over the planet are shutting down their worlds when it’s time to, or opening them up with the sun, clouds, rain, snow. All this is going on while I sleep and it doesn’t bother me a bit, doesn’t make me feel like I’m missing anything. It’s all OK, has always been OK. It’s not a machine, it’s all of us doing shifts. And my shift is over, so now I can rest peacefully knowing others are taking up the slack, doing the job.
The Ocean: the analogy of the loom bothers me to pieces. Word association game: you say loom, I say machine. It’s the word “machine,” what it means to me—huge, monstrous, gears turning, rolling, unstoppable, out of control. What’s in a word? Whatever quirky thing is in a person’s head. And we’re all different. In different parts of the country, you order a soda and the waitress goes blank. A pop? You mean a pop? And if you say, “Why yes! I’d like a pop, please,” everything will be OK. Poor Mr. Beecher was just saying the same basic thing as I was with my people-doing-shifts analogy.
Sleep’s a lovely word. When that word enters my head it pads about softly, cushily, in fuzzy slippers, making ready the big, white, woolly room with the tall, four-poster bed, plump mattress, and silky sheets. There are soft, freshly laundered blankets everywhere. And the warmest, fluffiest down comforters that I can pack around myself, pull up high above my head, and make a little tunnel that lets only moonlight and a little fresh air in. And in those few, luscious moments before drifting off to sleep, I draw close to the sweet-smelling thought of eternal rest for a few glorious hours, maybe longer.
There is divinity, ultimate peace in my word Sleep. And while it’s happening, life goes on, but not like a lovely loom even, and certainly not like a loom with cold moving mechanical parts working, never stopping, always weaving, weaving, weaving and when I wake up it has filled the room with an infinite timeline of tapestry, and just a minute longer of sleep and I would’ve been suffocated…
Photos/artwork above from Getty Images.
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