I woke up at 4:30 one morning last weekend, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Everything going on in my life crowded into my brain, as it often does during especially busy spells. When that happens, I know the tips and tricks I need to utilize to push things out of my mind so I can get some more sleep, but frankly, it felt like too much of an effort. So I decided to get up and get a few things done. I figured that before long I’d get tired again and go back to sleep.

I sat down at the computer to do some writing. But first, I gave in to the temptation to take a quick peek at my email, even though I warned myself that I would probably get distracted and not get any writing done.

The very first email I read contained a link to an article about the Perseids meteor shower, which was at its peak even as I was reading about it.

“How did I miss this?” I wondered.

My daughter has always been interested in astronomy, and when she lived at home we made it a habit to go out in the back yard whenever there was a meteor shower. She’s been living in Florida for several years now, but we still always remind each other whenever the forecast calls for a meteor shower.  I enjoy thinking of her as I sit out on our deck, watching for quick bursts of light flashing across the night sky.

The article I read said that in addition to the meteor shower, the planetary alignment of Venus and Jupiter and the crescent moon made for an interesting addition to the heavenly view.

How could I resist? I quietly slipped out the back door, sat down on a step, and looked up to the sky.

“Are you okay? What are you doing outside?” my husband asked from the bedroom window, which was right above the deck.

“I’m watching a meteor shower,” I told him. “Sorry, I was trying not to wake you.”

I guess I didn’t slip out the door as quietly as I thought.

I looked back up at the sky and saw two “maybe’s”—my word for the faint and fleeting streaks of light I see out of my peripheral vision. They may be meteors, but they also may be figments of my imagination.

Just then, right at the spot where my eyes were focused, I saw a strong, sure streak of light.

“Whoa!” I whispered to myself. “That was a good one.”

The air was chilly, but it felt good. There were no mosquitoes or other bugs flying around, buzzing and bothering me. The world was silent except for normal nighttime sounds. I admired the view of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon, and marveled at the fact that something as standard and reliable as the night sky can still provide such an ever-changing view.

I went back inside a short time later. I didn’t see any more meteors, but I had seen enough. After I turned off the computer, I went back upstairs and climbed into bed. It felt good to burrow under the covers, and I was asleep within minutes.

The next morning, I thought about everything I had done “wrong” after I woke up during the night. Conventional wisdom says I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed in the first place. Once I did, I shouldn’t have turned on the computer – or anything electronic. Instead I should have read a book, preferably a boring one that would have lulled me back to sleep. After I turned the computer on anyway, I should have stayed away from email if I wanted my mind to slow down instead of speed up.

But if I’d done everything I should have done, and ignored everything I shouldn’t have done, I’d have missed out on a wonderful experience – one that filled me with awe and delight, with appreciation for the vastness of the universe and the sweet solitude of my back yard in the middle of the night, and with precious memories and thoughts of my daughter.  It was a fair trade-off for the bit of sleep I missed.

It was also a valuable reminder that sometimes, even when you do everything wrong, things turn out all right. Or even better.

That’s a reassuring thought. And I’m sure it’s one that will help me let go of my worries and concerns and drift comfortably back into slumber the next time I wake up early in the morning and have trouble getting back to

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 16, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

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