Sleep and I have never been the best at getting along; many times it seems we simply cannot coexist in the same being. Recently I have been having more trouble with sleep than usual and, to make it worse, I’ve been hyper-aware of my poor sleeping habits. Between the hours of 1 and 4 am, there are not as many distractions and most of my friends are blissfully asleep. Darn them and their ability to sleep! Sorry, sometimes I get a little jealous. The point is, with no distractions and the early morning, otherworldly quiet, I have a lot of time to reflect.
Even when I was young, I was never one to “go gentle into that good night.” I had horrible nightmares and, as a result, developed a fear of sleep. My dad helped me with this problem by telling me about the Dreamlands and introducing me to S. Petersen’s Field Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands. The artwork is by Mark Ferrari and is absolutely beautiful. I remember my dad telling me that everyone I want to meet could be found along the paths of the Dreamlands; I could meet Edgar Allan Poe or H. P. Lovecraft or any resident creature I wished to find. I didn't know it at the time, but my dad was giving me my first lesson in lucid dreaming.
The Field Guide was the book I borrowed any time I couldn't sleep and whenever I had a bad dream. The book came with a flow chart asking yes or no questions and eventually there would be a page number for the creature. I would trace my finger along the paths, trying to find the creature I had met or the one I hoped to meet or the one I wanted to avoid such as the fellow on the right here.
Now that I’m older (and pretending I’m not afraid anymore) I no longer use creatures to get myself to sleep. The creatures of my youth have been exchanged for words and that is where The Insomniac’s Dictionary by Paul Hellweg comes onto the scene. It has all the words you didn’t know you wanted to know but are so glad once you find them. Long and short words, words with no vowels, groups of animals, manias, killing words, and, of course, words on sleep (as well as the inability to do so.) This is the book we would never let my mom read because she was just too good at Scrabble; my dad and I felt this book might be our salvation against my mother’s skills. That hope has long since been dashed; she is simply too good. Originally this was my dad’s book, but through excessive borrowing, it became mine. And as I prepare for my night of egersis (intense wakefulness) I will keep this tome close at hand and will surely pick it up in the wee hours of the morning.
And so, I bid you sweet dreams, my fellow bibliophiles.