The Darkest Point of the Night.

In that place between being awake and being asleep, it happened very early Tuesday morning.

Every now and then, I’m quickly awakened from deep and unsettling dreams. Then I find myself in that place between dreams and waking life, where whatever I was dreaming about has taken hold. Usually on these deep nights, it’s about the afterlife or lack thereof, of heartbreaking past loves or charismatic strangers. Sometimes it’s about loved ones long gone. What it is is deep. I’m in deep. Then something will wake me up suddenly, without much of a transition between deep dreams and relieving reality. In this case it was a cat pounding on a glass door, and Des kicking his crib. He had fallen asleep in a fleece jacket and sneakers, when he’s used to going to bed in just a t-shirt and pants. He was sweaty and thrashing and kicking.

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We brought him into bed. He kicked and kicked and kicked himself to sleep. In those moments between deep sleep and waking life, my heart pounds. It’s always during those dreadful hours between 2:00 and 4:00am. I call it the darkest point of the night. I was in so deep and to wake up so suddenly makes me assume the worst. A sick kid. A sick pet. A phone call.

It’s nice when it’s just a kid who wakes himself up in a sweat. I did some deep breathing and all was calm. All was silent. All was bright. The unsettled wake up from the dreamy depths of darkness feeling passed quickly and I was back to dreamland.

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It was only the darkest point of the night emotionally. Physically, the light was already thinking about trickling in. Just when we thought all was silent, we heard a bird song loud and clear. It was like a lighthouse cutting through the dark.

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On the night we landed in Orlando Airport in January, we still had to drive about two hours to St. Augustine. I had dozed off in the car, making sure to take lots of gulps of water because I tend to dehydrate on airplanes – not just from the dryness, but from the nerves keeping me from drinking enough. I woke up and I was in a beach town. I had woken up early that morning, some 15 hours earlier, onto a frozen wasteland. There were no birdsongs. No sunshine. I took two kids to daycare and school, and picked them up, and we got on our way to Bradley International Airport in Hartford. We had one flight, a two hour drive, and a 40 degree difference in temperature. Then I found myself in this most perfect town. The Christmas lights were still up on the light posts, and they were shaped like sand dollars and seahorses and starfish. I saw palm trees and resorts and mini golf. I opened my window to the beach breezes and the salty air. It was already cutting through and curling my wavy hair.

We had arrived.

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After knocking on the wrong door of the wrong house (oops), we found my in-laws’ winter rental. They welcomed us into the fold of the beach life, and we integrated ourselves within seconds. We were ready. Then my father-in-law took me outside the sliding glass door, out over a walkway, and onto a sandy beach. He turned off his flashlight and through the blackness I could see every star in the sky. It was the darkest point of the night – but only physically. Not emotionally. Not this time.

The next morning, I got to see that same view through the light of day.

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So we delved into that light and into that sun and into that warmth – into the fold of a summer vacation in winter.

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“You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” — Tinkerbell from Hook

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Me with my red dress over moose pajama pants and combat boots. It was cold early in the morning!

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104 Comments

  1. I hate being woken up in the middle of a deep sleep. Love those pics on Des on the beach!!!! 🙂

  2. Oh I know that feeling where you are wakened from dreamland and your heart is pounding and you haven’t quite figured out the difference between sleep and reality yet and it takes a moment to adjust. It’s always in the middle of the night when it’s dark.
    Beautiful photos as always. I especially like the ones of the rays of sun streaming through the clouds. Nature is so breathtaking.

    1. It’s such a distinct feeling. Another weird one that happens more in the winter is if you ever take a nap late in the afternoon and then wake up and it’s dark out, and you sort of forget what day it is and what time it is. You figure it out fast, but it’s really disorienting.

    1. From you, that’s a big compliment!

      And I’m looking at how long his hair was in the back but not in the front then. His newest haircut is a bit of a reverse of that.

  3. I experience the darkest point of night a LOT – those hours are long and lonely but I have turned them into the time I read or pray.
    Now I really want to be at the beach and be as carefree as Des looks in those pictures!!!

    1. I think that’s really awesome that you have a turnaround. Sometimes I play games on my phone, which helps. I think reading or praying sounds better.
      And I hope you get to the beach soon!

  4. When it is cold, being fashion forward is definitely not TOP OF MIND

    Funny you should talk about dreams because when I dream, they always truly hit home. I always google what my dreams mean and it’s CRAZY how they correlate with my life! The only morning I JOLTED away and gasped! In my dream I was in my car and it was malfunctioning, I was trying to fix it and then all of a sudden, someone poked me on the back and thats when I freaked out and woke myself up! ha! And this is what the dream meaning website said: “If you dream of being poked by someone, you will be successful in your plans.” — Hmmmmm well this could apply to so many aspects of my life, so it actually kind of motivates and excites me! HA!

    However, car trouble = overworked and over whelmed….. Hmmmmm! LOL!

    1. Well I do think you will be successful in all aspects of your life!
      If you’re anything like me, being cold is a terrible feeling. At least you live somewhere where you don’t have to go through it the way I do. Unless you visit your family!

  5. I love that quote from Hook! I’ve been in that darkest point of night too often, and I can’t wait for the sun to rise and make it all better. It’s also true that it’s darkest before the dawn, and it also seems to be the longest.

    1. It’s funny because no matter how bad it is, and I’ve had some bad nights in my life, when the sun starts creeping through, all bets are off. I feel very much healed.

  6. Beautifully written. This is one of those posts that hit you right in the middle of your heart. I’m glad you took us back to St. Augustine and to the darkest point of the night. xox

    1. I like the contrast between the physical darkness and the emotional darkness. And because I’m so lazy that when I’m finally writing about that night, I’m also three months late in my photos!

  7. I love all of the pictures of Des and Scarlet you share with us, Tamara. They truly are kids for all seasons! I like the sun’s early morning rays shining through the clouds too, reminding us once again that the darkest point of the night lasts for only a little while.

  8. Now that is one killer look that really needs to hit the runway! Or has it already and I missed it? I love that quote from Peter Pan/Hook. It has always been my favorite. So simple yet so profound. It always seems like the 2 to 4 hours is when things happen. Nightmares, kids tend to throw up, I throw up. It just always happens during those hours.

    1. Yes, vomit happens a lot during the middle of the night! Although for my kids, all winter it was around 10 PM. The new witching hour.

  9. Ugh, I really hate being woken up suddenly like that late at night when I’m deep in a dream, usually it takes me a minute to realize where I am and that the dream isn’t real. I love the way you tied that in with the physical darkness of the stars. Gorgeous photos as always, and Des is freakin handsome. I felt like I could see exactly what he’s going to look like in 20 years.

  10. This is so beautiful – both the writing and the pictures. Nighttime is the worst for my anxiety. I go to bed fine, but if anything wakes me up, my mind starts going to bad places. But it’s important to remember that morning and light always follows the night and the darkness. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much! Anxiety hits in the middle of the night. I feel like it spikes the way fevers and colds do. And always when dawn hits, there is a cleanse.

  11. What a dreamy post in every way Tamara! It had a dreamy cadence and I was lulled along by your description. Those jarring moments of waking so suddenly out of a dream can be so disconcerting. I’m glad your recent ones were filled more with wonder rather than dread.

    Those beachy pictures are gorgeous and make me so nostalgic for my dad’s house that he recently sold. This will be the first summer without it.

    1. We have a beach house in our family, and if it was sold, I would be crushed. Even though it’s only been in my life for eight years or so.

  12. beautiful place to spend a winter vacation. looks like Des really loves playing with the sand. Love all the pics 🙂

    I think I am a very light sleeper actually so any little noise always wakes me up so I guess that could be good in a way he-he

  13. I had that experience just this morning. The dream was simply weird, not disturbing or scary. I find the anxiiety filled, disturbing ones sometimes stay with you all day. The nice, happy good ones are always gone if I try to go back to sleep and find them again. I love the beach photos! It won’t be too long now for us here in MA, the snow is almost all gone!

    1. We still had three piles of snow up until yesterday or so! So if I had responded to your comment when you actually left it, I would’ve told you that the snow is almost gone. Now I can tell you that it’s fully gone.

  14. 2 and 4 are the witching hours as I like to call them – but want to hear something weird? No, well I’m going to tell you…last night I dreamt of walking into the wrong house. Over and over and over. I couldn’t find my house. And here I am reading your post and you knocking on the wrong door – ok so maybe not that weird….
    I always enjoy those beautiful smiles and their joy in the simplest things 🙂

  15. Waking suddenly in the middle of the night is a shock, but thankfully, it’s usually nothing. It’s those times when it’s not nothing that makes the middle of the night such a dark time.

  16. I know that part of the night. It’s been a tad dreadful lately. And, that quote from Peter Pan just brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing read for me today. Thank you Tamara! I needed this.

    1. Thank you! I’m sorry to hear it’s been dreadful lately. I hope the light shines in all night long. Did that make any sense at all?

  17. Beautiful beautiful photos! The monochrome sand and sky make the perfect backdrop for your kiddos! Love the sun rays through the clouds as well. As for the darkest point of the night, can totally relate because O was recently sick and the nights are the worse. Fevers higher. Have to wake her to give her meds. She can’t sleep because of stuffy nose. Oh well. Glad it’s over!

    1. I used to say I had sundowners syndrome. Which is a real thing that I don’t have. But whenever I’m sick, it gets worse at night. Then the morning is the best part.

  18. Love the pic of Des with his tongue on his upper lip – that is the sign of a genius in concentration! And I’m not saying that just because I do the same thing.

    It is so beautiful here today, so your beach photos make a sunny day even sunnier. Goodbye winter!

    1. Good riddance too! Your comment made me laugh because there’s something that I call “art face “, and it’s adorable on everyone.

  19. No doubt, the beach is a happy place. I love watching kids on a beach – it is just FREEDOM! Although if it was cold, I would have been a bit bummed out. I think we search out our deepest thoughts in sleep. Or, our minds wander through some pretty weird stuff!

    1. It was definitely cold in the morning, and then would get warm in the afternoon. Orlando was much warmer. January was cold for St. Augustine!

  20. The clouds!!! Amazing shots! And the beach *sigh*.. I’d love to own a beach house someday. It’s probably refreshing to wake up in a beach house on a summer day.

    1. We have a beach house in Cape Cod, but it’s not right on the beach. Still quite a walk. This was really amazing because you could see and hear it from the house.

  21. As always, great pictures. I really like the way Scarlet’s tights “pop!” I hate that time, when your not quite certain if your dreaming, and then when you realize you are – you hurry up to get back to sleep, so you can continue where you left off? Except that I’m rarely ever able to. And the Peter Pan Quote? LOVE.

    1. I love that so many of you know the Peter Pan quote! Gives me a big lump in the throat every time.
      Scarlet has a fantastic outfit on!

  22. Oh it is always so scary waking up suddenly at night. Glad it was nothing serious. I always have trouble falling asleep after stuff like that. Love all the beach photos – makes me want to be there!

    1. Cassidy usually has trouble going back to sleep. No matter what time it is. Whereas I think getting up before eight or nine is brutal. And yet I do it every day!

  23. Your posts always make me smile Tamara. I know that point of the night. It’s the point where either I’ll be able to slip back into sleep…or I’m awake for the morning… :).

    1. It’s always a little interesting with kids and pets. In the past, I would always just go back to sleep. Even if it took hours. Now there are so many other factors at play!

  24. Whenever I get woken up in the middle of the night, I always assume the worst too! I hate the feeling and I usually can’t go back to sleep anymore. The last time I saw a sky filled with stars was a few months ago when I went to Bantayan Island (the one ravaged by Haiyan) with a group of bloggers. No city lights, No smog. Just a black sky and littered with what seemed like a million of stars. Beautiful.

  25. Thank you, thank you, thank you – for bringing such wonderful summer photos to us. I know and feel that spring is here, and I love it, but – it is nothing compared to a beautiful beach and the ocean 🙂
    I love clouds during sunrise and sunset, makes it a lot more interesting, intriguing. Your pics remind me of our vacation on the Outer Banks, where I took also star pictures, because there is so little light pollution there. It is beautiful. And it looks very similar to your spot.
    Hmm, maybe you should make your haunting thoughts, night(mare) recaps into a novel? No? Just an idea. It sounded kind of very mysterious i.e. mystery novel Thankfully I usually do not get abruptly interrupted during sleepy time. Although hubby seems to have dreams at times that force him to wake up very abruptly, like, sitting upright in bed. Which tends to wake me up, too :), but 99 % I don’t have a problem getting back to sleep. Hah – and he sometimes doesn’t even remember – LOL

    1. That’s hilarious! Cassidy blows on my face while he’s sleeping. It’s not necessarily directed at my face, but he just blows in general. When I was pregnant and I couldn’t stand the smell of garlic, if he ate it and then blew on me, I’d leave the bed.

  26. Love the way you wrote this with the photos and the descriptive words, so beautiful, and yet so familiar…The line with Tink from Hook gets me every time!!!! I like to believe that we can find loved ones in that state too….

  27. That space between deep sleep and reality can be so strange. I’m sorry you had to deal with a sick (and kicking) kiddo at the time. But your description of the night sky in Florida and those pictures at the beach are just stunning. Perfect quote from Tink in there too.

    1. That might be one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. He is okay, but was really sweaty because he went to bed in fleece. I think we’ve been virus free for two whole weeks! I don’t even know what to do with myself.

    1. Me too! When I used to live in San Francisco, there was a 40° difference in the summer between where I lived and where I worked. The city is very cold in the summer but the areas above the Golden gate Bridge get to be over 100°.

  28. Derek still jumps into ‘ATTACK’ position every time I wake him up… I used to only wake him up when it got REALLY bad with Cass… and he would JUMP in total panic from that deep sleep. I hate that… I do it too. We have been programmed that way since she was born…

    Last time I woke him up, it was because of a bug I found while staying up super late (as usual). He wasn’t happy.

    lol

    LOVE those beach shots. And your moose pjs. Perfect.

    1. Hah! A bug!! Cassidy has that attack reflex too. Whereas I will just sleep through earthquakes and explosions. And I’m not exaggerating because both of those things have happened in my life. And I slept through them.

  29. You did it!! you said the Tinkerbell quote and I got goosebumps and happy feels again!
    I used to wake up in a panic… like my mind was screaming at me “get up! get up! you need to wake up now!” and there would be this heavy feeling on my chest and I couldn’t get up. couldn’t actually sit up in bed. and then I would realize.. you’re not awake. you’re still asleep and trapped in this dream of your mind telling you to wake up for….. you know not why!!! get the #&* up!! and this seemed to last forever, and my heart is pounding right now just thinking about those times. And then I would just wake up. to nothing: just still and quiet, while my brain still scrambled to make sense of what the heck the panic was all about. I haven’t had one of those in forever…. not since being married with kids. So IDK what happened… why they just stopped. but thank God because they were awful.

    I need a beach vacation now.

    1. I did it. I really did it.

      That’s so interesting about that past and how your husband and kids have made it so you don’t have those moments anymore. I wonder if it’s just that you were looking for them all along.

  30. Waking up suddenly at that point in the night always unsettles me. Those transitional hours and moments are very haunting. These photos are amazing and gorgeous. And I need to be at the beach now too!

    1. I need to be at the beach too. This wonderful weather has spoiled me this weekend, but I know that it still doesn’t get quite warm until May or June.

    1. I have to do that more because it makes me feel better. Something else that helps me is to read blogs while I am having one of those nights.

  31. BEAUTIFUL pictures! I hate waking up in the middle of the night, because my mind can take me places, usually not good places. I then have to check on everyone. Sometimes even the dog…
    XOXO

    1. They are certainly not-good places sometimes. I impress myself a lot lately.. by not having so much anxiety – even when late night wakeups are bad – like sick kids or pets out in the rain or bad dreams.

  32. What a gorgeous night, in the darkness. That type of darkness scares, the emptiness and the depth of it. You are looking into light years beyond us without knowing what’s out there. The sky photo is intense. I could get lost in that forever.

  33. Sometimes I love the dark of the night, it is quiet, I can get a lot done, I can spend time by myself, a long hot bath…sneaking a snack, LOL. But I hate the darkness of the night when I hear a noise but am too scared to check it out. Or when I wake up out of a dream, in the darkest part of night and then I fall back asleep and fall into the dream again, the horror, the fear, waking again and wishing it were day time. Hate that.

  34. Those sudden jolts at night are hard to navigate. I try to fall back asleep, but sometimes I lay awake, trying to keep the anxiety at bay.

    These photos are exquisite, Tamara. Love them.

  35. Know what I learned here? that even when you’re in a spot with cold and no birds and no seabreeze, it’s only a short trip to get there. Figuratively. It’s within us if we’ll follow it.

  36. A 40 degree difference in temps between locations? Whoa! I love that you knocked on the wrong door and wore combat boots to the beach, lol. I hate the in-between dozing at dead time aka 3am. :/ though sometimes I have either very great or very terrible thoughts so, fine, I’ll take it. (What other choice do I have)

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