With the flip of a calendar page (or a swipe of finger on a smartphone) July is gone for another year, and it is August, my month. The first summer month when, even though the sun is still reluctant to set, the days are discernably shorter, and the nights incrementally longer.
I’ve always been attuned to the night. While some people are morning people, happy and chirpy at first light, the only time I typically see dawn is when I haven’t yet been to bed. I have never been afraid of darkness; rather I crave it.
I come by it naturally.
The night before I was born, there was a full moon and an eclipse. If that doesn’t lock you into a special relationship with nighttime, I don’t know what does. (Recently, I asked my mother if she remembered any of that, and she reminded me that she’d been a little preoccupied with being in labor.)
In any case, just as foghorns sang my first lullabies, the night was my first muse. Every night, after we spend a couple of post-dinner hours together, my husband and I retreat to our separate spaces, he to his man-cave (it’s his office during work-hours) and me to either the Word Lounge (my office/recording studio) or the bedroom (I like to write in bed). Around midnight, I text him the same question: “Bed at three?”
Most nights, my question isn’t meant to nudge him toward bedtime, so much as it is to gauge how much writing time I have left, because the wee hours, the ones between midnight and three in the morning are when I’m most creative. (Even this piece, that you are reading, most likely, while sipping coffee or tea on a sunny summer Sunday, was written long after dark, long after the time my neighborhood – and probably yours – had gone to sleep.)
(I’m fortunate that I married a man as nocturnal as I am. We don’t have a relationship that involves one of us cajoling the other into changing their habits, and we’re lucky enough to have schedules that mesh with our mutual nocturnal proclivities.)
While I don’t love the daytime heat, I do enjoy my afternoons in my pool, swimming laps or even just idly floating under the canopy of trees. I even enjoy sitting in the morning sun with a mug of coffee, or reclining on a chaise lounge with a magazine and a tall glass of iced tea.
But the nights – those soft, sultry, August nights – those are my favorite parts of summer. After spending June and July at my creative low, I emerge into the moonlight and starlight with renewed energy, and renewed inspiration.
During my childhood, the nights of August were filled with anticipation: my birthday, returning home from my grandparents’ house where I spent most summers until I was a teenager, returning from music or drama camp as a teenager, and the eventual preparation for school. They were also filled with magic: going to the beach at twilight, catching fireflies with my cousins, having late-night coffee ice cream and scrabble tournaments, enjoying the thrill of a thunderstorm, or even the occasional hurricane.
As an adult, I have to make my own magic, but over the next few weeks there will be time spent trying to catch the Perseid meteor shower (NASA says it’s going to be extra-intense this year, and the best date for viewing is August 12th), and yes, my birthday, because you are never too old to celebrate yourself.
More importantly, there will be time spent communing with the night, when the starlight will sprinkle my soul with glitter, the moon will illuminate new ideas and help me find new perspective on old ones, and the darkness itself will soothe my soul.
Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”
I say: I’m a mermaid child, born on the night of a full moon and an eclipse, raised sand on my toes and salt-spray in my hair, and sung to sleep by seagulls and foghorns. The sea can never harm me, for it knows me as its own, and the night can never scare me, because I speak its language in my soul.
Image copyright: solerf / 123RF Stock Photo
About the author: Melissa A. Bartell
Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.