Cool Water, Dianne Warren
"The breeze at
dawn has secrets to tell you; Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you
really want; Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the
doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back
to sleep." Rumi
We dread insomnia, but sometimes, if we give in to it, it
can reveal a strange kind of magic. I
recall a particular night when fear of financial ruin was keeping me up because
our old home hadn’t sold while the new one had a substantial mortgage. Finally I got up, wandered downstairs, turned
on the tv, and watched a small city news station from thousands of miles
away. I knew that whatever was happening
in that foreign town couldn’t possibly affect me, yet I was mesmerized.
Just as Norval, the town banker in Cool Water is lulled into relaxation by watching the weather
channel at all hours, I was lulled by foreign leaves sprouting on trees behind
the scene of a car crash, a promise that leaves would eventually bud in our
area, and that life would get better, eventually.
Although the worry that kept me awake was
awful, that night had a magical effect on me, so much so that it remains one of
my favourite nights ever. I’ve had other
nights like that, where anxiety kept me up, so I sat looking out a window to
watch the sun rise, or out in the hot tub to listen for the first birds, then watch
the greying sky, finally the pink dawn and then the normalcy of the day. There is something enchanting about the quiet
and the dark. What starts out as insomniac
dread and anxiety, if I get up and stay up, has always ended in a magical and memorable
night for me.
Some philosophers and mystics say the veil between our
reality and others is the thinnest in the middle of the night, and this is the
time when we can most easily communicate with the dead, with animals, with the
deepest parts of our own souls.
In this novel, several characters experience that unease
associated with insomnia, but instead of tossing and turning, they get out of
bed, and are better able to feel and follow their instincts. Lee discovers a silvery Arabian horse outside
his bedroom window, and sets off on a trek back into his childhood that is both
magical and exhausting. While his
nocturnal adventure is the most dramatic of the various characters in this
novel, all experience something profound.
This isn’t a plot driven book. But the characterization is crystal
perfect. Even the most minor character,
a woman applying for a teaching job, is realistic and vivid.
As far as literature therapy goes, this book can remind you
that instead of reaching for that sleeping pill, or getting frustrated because
you can’t sleep, sometimes the best activity is to get up and enjoy the
night. Who knows? It could be an enlightening experience.