Last night, I opened all four windows in my bedroom to the crisp September night, tree frogs and crickets still in concert below, temperatures paused at 56 degrees. There are two sets of single pane French doors, just five feet tall, under the east-facing eaves on the second floor of the room in this old house, and two more windows on the west wall. Not a huge space, just generous enough to feel like a summer porch or a tree house, when everything is wide open. Under two layers of blankets, I dreamed deep into the dark that I was a sailor, on watch in the crow’s nest of an old tall ship, high above the oceans of hay fields and cedars that surround my New Jersey farm. I kept a weather eye for driftwood in what had gradually, toward morning, become an ink-colored sea .
Just before dawn as the light dripped across the horizon and almost woke me, I turned over in a half sleep and finished the dream. The ship rocked and rose across the white crusted breakers as the wind whistled through her rigging, clanking cleats against her mast.I lay in a bunk below her decks again, dreaming it had been a blood -sky night, a sailor’s delight, moon high and round as the ship's wheel. I had seen the skies glow pink, through the porthole, I was sure; and the north star, bright as a gem layed out on black velvet.
I finally woke, unsure of where I was, then realizing the swelling sounds of the breaking crests in my dream were a raucous cacophony of cicadas rising and falling in the maples outside my bedroom, not a sailor's berth--their shrill song has been singing me to and from my bed since June, scratching their seventeen year itch--wings beating a weakening crescendo from leaves that have now begun to yellow.
A breeze sighs past the paint-chipped sills bringing on its cold breath the smell of fallen salt hay fom the browning fields below. I stretch once more, reluctant to shake off my sleep-laden reverie and know I am home on dry land. I lay awake, covers pulled tight, missing the dream of the sailor, a Nantucketer, living as the keeper of all things seaworthy; the place where the cold light of last summer mornings promises the best is yet to come.
Ryder S. Ziebarth, a freelance writer, was most recently published in the Metropolitan Diary section in the New York Times, Brevity, a flash- nonfiction literary journal, N magazine and NantucketChronicle.com among other publications.