I know someone who can lie down in the middle of a party and sleep. Incredible. I, on the other hand, will wake up completely if I attempt to sleep in the middle of the day. The exceptions are my five minute naps alongside a trail, probably because I prefer open, cool, airy, clean places to sleep – and deep fatigue. I will say that I think naps are one of life's great pleasures, and I have been denied them for the most part, though I have had naps enough to know what I am missing. (I do not count the nap assignments I had as a child which were profoundly boring – unless I actually went to sleep, but then I woke in a wicked mood, feeling horrible.)
I have had a few wonderful naps, and what I appreciated most was being conscious that I was having a nap, that I was completely comfortable. Once, I fell asleep, crouching at the edge of a lake on Taboose Pass while filtering water. This sudden sleep must have lasted seconds, but when I fell back into the silky grass at the water's edge, I reflected on that comfort, that perfect comfort, and that deep, deep blue.
I think that the best nap I ever had was on a trail in Yosemite. Even though I dreamed – in color – I was aware of the fact that I was asleep, and that I was leaning against a tree, by a trail, in Yosemite, and that I was 18, and strong, and smart, and attractive, and happy with myself . . . Ironically, muttering the words, “I am so tired,” woke me.
Occasionally, meditation has served in place of a nap. Not too long ago, that happened . . .
on one late afternoon when I escaped from mosquitos by taking refuge in my tent after a long hike at altitude. At first, I just enjoyed the fact that I had escaped the pesky mosquitos, that I was not being bitten, and then I began to enjoy the scenery that I had missed while defending myself from these voracious insects; the granitic character of domes and spires. Eventually, I just watched my comrades as they moved about the camp doing chores, cooking, and swatting and swatting and swatting with a singular patience that comes with being resigned. It was rather hypnotic. I felt restful and not bothered. I considered doing something: reading, writing, looking at the map, listening to my i-pod. I decided to do nothing for a change, think about nothing in particular except my breathing. As a result, I was carried away (as they say) into a place of conscious rest, a meditative state, best ever.
Sleeping at night has always been easy for me, but I had to learn to rest. I have, and it was Stu who taught me (yet another gift) - when we were on our way for a hike in the region of the Mokolomne River. There was a change of plans; Stu wanted to stop for a little “shut-eye.” We stopped at a picnic area by the river, and found a lounging place on a picnic table. There, we both lay down. Stu slept briefly, and I received on my reclined person, fall leaves that gently landed on and around me. I did not remove them. “What's that about?” Stu asked.
“I am the resting place.”
He said, “Not a bad place to be.”