The Quiet Dark Stillness of Those Early Hours Somewhere Around 1 a.m…


I woke up one morning this week thinking and wondering how my 5-month-old granddaughter’s night had gone as she had had a few uncharacteristically challenging days this week. Teething most likely the culprit but a growth spurt is certainly in the realm of “unsettling” possibilities. Before my feet touched the ground and as I reached for my eyeglasses, I couldn’t help but wonder why pain has to be such an integral part of the human condition? Is teething our first teacher after birth of dealing with pain and discomfort in life?  

The parental abyss of endless hours spent wanting to soothe a distressed baby who can only express their discomfort through tears and strong healthy lungs. The quiet dark stillness of those early hours somewhere around 1 a.m. when many parents learn that none of the best comforting skills are making one iota of a difference as they walk, sway and rock while the clock also refuses to cooperate. When one endless day flows into the next with not much changing but the calendar. We have all been there but that does not make the process any easier. As grandparents we may no longer have all of the details of our child’s early milestones and development, but it is amazing what we can recall in our efforts to be helpful. 

A tiring week for this new family. My daughter and I chatted about the events of the week and covered all of the reasonable possibilities of what was ailing this 5-month-old beauty.  I commiserated and acknowledged how hard those long days were when a baby is uncomfortable. Quietly and to myself, I thought of how short lived those days actually are and how quickly the years pass. I too understand the dark stillness of the early morning hours, but the reasons are vastly different now…

Sitting at my desk this morning with my chin resting in the palm of my hand I turn my head slightly to the right to look out my nearest studio window. My eyes narrowed a bit in response to the brightness of the sunlight reflecting off the newly fallen snow. My eyes struggled to adjust to the golden hue as it is early. The weather has been snowy and gray for days. Vermont in February. The clear blue sky and glorious sunshine feels both foreign yet welcome. I mentally journey up the steep slope of the hill behind my house from the comfort of my warm studio. The climb is earnest in its intensity despite the tranquil image before my knowing eyes.

Sitting quietly with my laptop open, a second cup of freshly brewed coffee carefully resting on a bear paw print beverage coaster while my thoughts were elsewhere. Deep in thought with a tinge of sadness my thoughts awakened to movement in the woods just yards away. A beautiful red fox appeared. She was more burnt orange in color, robust and healthy looking. A warm striking contrast to the field of stark white snow. Trotting with purpose through the thickly populated evergreens and birches she had a place to be this morning. I envied that. Swiftly navigating her way, I follow her journey across the woods from one window to the next. She stepped quickly and lightly over the ice crusted snow making her paw prints undefinable…her secret was safe with me.

Between every two pines there is a doorway to a new world. John Muir

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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