Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sleep (or Lack Thereof)

La Mere, Elizabeth Nourse, 1888

Summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich, and your ma is good looking
So hush little baby, don't you cry
Summertime, lullaby from Porgy and Bess, 1935

The original version of this song is quite soothing, and somewhat
slow and melancholy, in natural minor. Gershwin was actually
inspired to write the song after hearing a Ukrainian lullaby,
Oi Khodyt Son Kolo Vikon (A Dream Passes by the Window).
I love to fall immediately into a delicious deep sleep and then
sleep through the entire night. This scrumptious sleep was
always taken for granted in my younger years. Unfortunately,
I can all too often identify with this poem by Billy Collins. I think
next time, I’ll try counting jumping fish in a lovely field of water.


by Billy Collins
Sailing Alone Around the Room

After counting all the sheep in the world
I enumerate the wildebeests, snails,
camels, skylarks, etc.,

then I add up all the zoos and aquariums,
country by country.

By early light I am asleep
in a nightmare about drowning in the Flood,
yelling across the rising water
at preoccupied Noah as his wondrous
ark sails by and begins to grow smaller.

Now a silhouette on the horizon,
the only boat on earth is disappearing.

As I rise and fall on the rocking waves,
I concentrate on the giraffe couple,
Their necks craning over the roof,
to keep my life from flashing before me.

After all the animals wink out of sight
I float on my back, eyes closed,
I picture all the fish in creation
leaping a fence in a field of water,
one colorful species after another.

Jumping Trout, Winslow Homer
I even found The Willow’s Lullaby by Priscilla Hernández.
If this doesn't do the trick, I don't know what will...
Click (here) to listen.


  1. Ahhhh, Summertime -- one of my favorites! I love, love, love Ella Fitzgerald's and Louis Armstrong's rendition. For the professor and me... well, it's our song!

  2. I love that song, too!...and this poem! I usually sleep really well unless something terribly stressing is upsetting me. The husband mentioned the big thunderstorm last night...I said, "There was a storm?" He just rolled his eyes. :) Hope the Willow Lullaby works for you!

  3. I actually know this melody. Lovely painting too.

    Funny you mention lack of sleep--I didn't get to bed until after 4:00 am in the morning

  4. Willow, I would like to officially welcome you to the club of aging women who no longer sleep. I have been a member for the last 10 years. I have found that old fashioned remedy of a glass of milk before bed works better than anything else ...except drugs, which I don't want to take.

    The painting by Elizabeth Nourse is gorgeous. It reminds me of a Caravaggio with those intense shadows. This is my first time to hear music by Priscilla Hernandez. I really like the ethereal sound of it.

    Hope you sleep better tonight!

  5. Oh, I am SO glad to be an official member!!! I'll have to give the milk a try...

    Yes, I thought Caravaggio, too, with that intense chiaroscuro. I loved this painting!

  6. Recently, someone asked me if I take photographs while I am asleep. I think it must be true!

    zzzzzzzzzz....... click!!!

  7. Amen Sister!!!! I like that song, too. It's ashame when sleeping in means I make it until 6:30 AM.!

  8. Enjoyed Priscilla, but enjoyed the video more. Can I join the club? 3.30 in the morning has become a habit with me now, my painkillers must run out at that time and I need topping up (hate taking them, but they are a necessity). Hopefully after my operation, counting good old fashioned sheep should induce the zzzz zzzzzs

  9. Hmmm....maybe one of those will do the trick...insomnia isn't fun.

  10. Sorry you are having sleeping problems...

    I had to come and tell you, your blog name is lovely... Just read a comment by you, on Pappy's blog. Have seen you elsewhere also. Perhaps I've said this, before, too. :-) But even if I did, it bears saying again. Willow Manor. Lovely...

    Miss Mari-Nanci

  11. Good choices. Well done Willow. My sleep was spotty last night as I anticipated the wind and rain. It is 7:00 AM here and I am hearing some stormy sounding rain hitting my windows. I hope to have some breakfast and maybe a nap soon. Pappy

  12. Mari-Nanci, thank you for your lovely comment...I'm heading over to you place...

    Pappy, I just read that the hurricane is heading toward Brownsville...batten down and stay safe!!

  13. Oh, it's so true, isn't it, that as we get older, sleep is not always as immediate as it used to be! Some nights, even when I'm really tired, I just lie there awake, and I never did that at all until these last few years... I love Billy's poem! and the song is haunting. I am fortunate that I still seem to sleep very well, but when I'm on the road all fall, I don't sleep restfully at all. Summertime is such a beautiful song--I've always loved it. And Homer is one of my favorites...

  14. A Brush, hmmmm, sounds like you are a member of this fun club, too. I think we all must be around the same age.

  15. I need to keep this short. Due to severe storms, I slept on a) the couch b)my own bed c)the spare bed - in that order. It was a rough night and added to it was the water coming down the basement wall and running along the floor. Insomnia ruled over us last night! Great poem though.


  16. Great post Willow...I love the song Summertime and saw the play Porgy and Bess with Sammy Davis Jr...many years ago. The sleep thing...I do well most nights...but if I wake up and have anything to worry about, I'm finished for the night...the worst thing is the shallow sleep...not sound asleep or awake...Ugh..

  17. I guess I'm a member of that same club - which does make me feel a bit better. And what makes it worse is I'm sleepy each evening by 9pm. Tis a vicious circle - and not to mention "those" darn cats.

    xo, S, Winn & Les Chats Dans le Doghouse. Wink.

  18. I hope this post doesn't signify a battle with insomnia for you! What a wretched thing it is not to be able to sleep. I have been here.

    Isn't it funny that dogs never seem to have that trouble? However, on the rare occasion that I can't sleep, Edward will get up with me. With his fur all flattened down on one side, and yawning heavily. Sweet boy.

  19. Willow, my hairdresser tells me insomnia is the most common complaint she hears from her (ahem) older female clients. I've had horrible insomnia since I was in my forties, but it has inexplicably gotten much better lately. Love the paintings and of course, Mr. Collin's poem!

  20. Forgot to mention, you might like this book, a collection of poems about insomnia from different cultures: "Acquainted with the Night", edited by Lisa Spaar. It's in my cart at Amazon, so I haven't actually seen it, but it sounds intriguing.

  21. Have certainly been there, but only ocasionally I am glad to say.

  22. Well, it looks like I am not alone here! Teehee! And actually, I had a great night's sleep last night. Maybe I just needed to blog on the subject and get it out of my system.

    Sharon, this sound like a great subject for poetry. I'll have to check out this book! Thanks!

  23. The trout and the poem are a perfect match.
    Do you ever go to Merisi's Vienna?
    She often choses Billy Collins poems which I love.

  24. Willow, thanks for including the Elizabeth Nourse painting in this post. I'm not familiar with her work so I read her bio - a very interesting and independent woman.

  25. Yes, isn't she great? A native of Ohio! :) I need to get down to Cincy and see some of her work.

  26. For some reason I don't think that my favourite version of Sumemrtime will appeal to you. It was sung by Janis Joplin and it's as melancholic as it can get, but also, raw, unbridled and indomitable, pretty much like the performer.

    Greetings from London.

  27. Elizabeth, I think I would like Marisi's blog, especially if she is a Billy Collins fan. Is she on your blogroll?

    Cuban, I bet Janis Joplin sings a great version of Summertime...I'll look on YouTube...

  28. ah, yes, the things we took for granted in our youth! love the song summertime and the poem is very nice!

  29. Thanks so much for your kindness and your advice - I promise I won't fall off the kerb while using my camera!

  30. I'm pretty sure I saw that trout painting here in Chicago!

  31. Its a Billy Collins night...er morning for me. I'm up reading Life at Willow Manor at 3.30 a.m.
    Love the Winslow Homer fish.

  32. I didnt know about the song Summertimes (the ukrainian Lullaby!) Anyway is Summertimes a great classical!!

  33. Willow, I can really relate to this post...I've had horrible bouts with insomina in the past and it can catch up to you..I haven't seen the movie but isn't 'The Machinist' about a man who has a severe case of insomnia? That's the role where Christian Bale dropped so much weight.

    I love the Winslow Homer and 'Summertime' is on the Tea Society playlist:-)

  34. Whoever Billy is...he's hilarious!!

    "I enumerate the wildebeests, snails..etc...hahahha.... oh, man... I'm laughing right out loud all by myself here...

    Oh, how I can relate to not sleeping... tx for a good laugh...

  35. I am going through some of your older posts again and ran across "Summertime".

    I was humming Summertime the other day and I couldn't remember part of the lyrics. "the fish are jumping".

    Now I'll be singing and humming this until the Olympics come on tonight and distract me.

    I have your link in my Firefox "bookmarks". I will put it on my Some favorites Side bar as "Willow Manor", then I'll remember to visit more often.

    We really like your choice of books, films, art, music, and poetry.

    Visit anytime,
    Troy and Martha


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)