Russell Kirk (and many others, I am sure) called 3 of the clock in the morning, the “Witching Hour”.
It is an hour which has inspired some of the best imaginings and writings from many. The combined comfortable darkness and the pleasant relaxation of concentration allows for great freedom and spiritedness. Or, just spirits of several kinds.
Lately, my “witching hour” has not been very pleasant. In my green youth, 3 o’ clock Ante Meridian was a time of fresh energy; usually after a night of signing, guitar and violin music, poetry discussions, and genteel wine-sipping, the liveliness began to fade at about 2. But if we just pushed a little further until 3, we suddenly caught a second wind and began to debate anew, and with more brilliant wit, the merits of John Donne versus John Keats.
With (relative) maturity came a more responsible witching hour. My late nights were usually in the company of my books, research, computer, blankets and candles. Elthelweard used to call my nest of studiousness. That magical hour really did bring clarity and quick writing.
Then, as age crept towards me, the haunting of the that hour become one of slight concern. It is the time of night when I regularly wake suddenly, gasping with almost hysteria over everything I forgot to accomplish (do laundry, pay bills!) and everything that I have to yet to do (grade the spelling quiz, submit lesson plans, clean the kitchen, job hunt, apartment find). So I lull myself back to sleep with promises of doing everything in the morning. But it takes so long to do so that by morning I am too exhausted to remember my midnight chidings. And the vicious cycle continues.
Is this a part of growing up? Why must the magic of the 3 0’clock be lost to me? How do I find my way to Neverland?
Finally, in desperation, I started to recite things I had memorized in my childhood in an effort to fight the midnight worries. After a few minutes of brainless mumbling, I found that I was simply repeating two lines which I had not particularly considered in years.
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want.
The ultimate song of peace and trust, and it took my semi-conscience mind to turn to it. Once I actually started to concentrate on the words and meaning, it took only a few minutes to fall back asleep. Amazing how simple my problems are once I get my priorities straight.
And this morning I had enough energy to rememorize the whole verse.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.