Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Counting Sheep

It was the perfect night for sleep. The cold breath of winter was rushing down through the pine trees, playing soporific lullabies on the silver windchimes, whistling quiet melodies around the cottage eaves, providing a hypnotic background to the comforting sounds of the three sleeping souls close around me.

I lay there, listening.

Toasty warm, and wide awake.

Oh, I knew it would happen. I was wide awake all evening, wide awake when I went to bed, when I closed my book, when I turned off the light. No pain or worry to keep me from sleep, just a mind that refused to turn off.

Knowing that if I sneaked out of bed to roam the darkened house - perhaps to read, to write, to knit - Edward would consider it a severe dereliction of his duties not to follow me, up from his warm bed, fur mussed from sleep, eyes half closed. I could not do that to him, so I stayed where I was and decided, like Wordsworth on a night long ago, to count the ever reliable sheep. I selected my flock and lined them all up. But like the great poet, I too soon learned that this time tested remedy is not always fool proof.

At first, my sheep were performing nicely enough, leisurely jumping over my conjured stone stile with an easy grace often afforded by one’s imagination. But then I noticed a slight distraction, a lack of focus in their ovine eyes. Soon, sure enough, one abruptly refused to follow his kin, taking off on his own down a pathway of green. Another turned left and ran off to the sea. Soon they were all going in different directions, willy nilly, paying no heed to my orders and leaving me no choice but to try and round them up.

I followed the wooly Swaledale to town where I found him outside an ice cream shop with red and white striped awnings. We wandered the village streets, gazing in shop windows and lapping up ice cream before heading back, me holding tight to the scruff of his neck.

Next I headed off after the Greyfaced Dartmoor, down an overgrown country lane to a garden, planted all with white flowers - peonies, gardenias, freesia - oh it was heavenly. We strolled through the ivory rows, sipping lemonade and thinking of spring, me in a white dress, my fleecy companion with daisies woven round his head.

I found the Spanish Merino perched on a hillside overlooking the sea, an estate agent’s brochure held tight in his mouth. It was chock full of photographs of Cumbrian cottages, Scottish crofts, and weathered seaside manors. We sat there for at least an hour in companionable fashion, trying to decide which one was the best choice for me.

A Dalesbred ram was trying on boots in Toulouse, an Icelandic ewe was having dinner with Robert Deniro. A Herdwick lamb was in Rome at the opera, a dozen Hebridean on a boat down the Nile.

As the light in the bedroom began to turn from silver to milky grey, the sheep began to wander off home. Exhausted, I let them go. Though they did not perform as expected, they made for an interesting night. No doubt my eyes will be scratchy at noontime, and my mood will be grumpy at five. But I shall fall into bed at an earlier hour, and hope for a restful night’s sleep.

To Sleep

A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by

One after one; the sound of rain, and bees

Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,

Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;

I've thought of all by turns, and still I lie

Sleepless; and soon the small birds' melodies

Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees,

And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry.

Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,

And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:

So do not let me wear tonight away:

Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?

Come, blessed barrier between day and day,

Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

by William Wordsworth


  1. Dear Pamela, Once again a highly imaginative and entertaining piece of writing which nicely led from the splendid painting [where do you find such appropriate pictures?] to the lines from Wordsworth.

    I so enjoyed the way in which you engaged the reader with the separate, and quite distinct, personalities of the sheep. The whole posting is great fun!

  2. Hi Pamela,
    Are you sure you weren't sleeping and having these wonderful dreams? I wouldn't mind being a sheep if I could have dinner with Robert DeNiro. Baaaaa.
    You are such a talented and imaginative writer.

  3. How cute! Especially amusing was the one about an estate agents brochure. How sweet that you and Edward both take care for each other like that :)
    I am definitely off to bed here,where it is past 2:30 AM, sleepier still by your post..Goodnight!

  4. What a lovely *night owl* tale of wandering hither & yon with woolly companions! You've inspired me to try & be more clever when I am counting said woolies because in the morning, at least I'd have SOMETHING that would have made such a restless night worthwhile :>]]

  5. I am with Cindee, Moonstone Gardens on this! (Psst - I, too, don't want to disturb the sleep of my Sophie and will do all manner of contortions in the bed not to disturb her sleep!)

  6. Love reading your lucid and intelligent writing.

  7. Once again, Pamela, you have captivated me with your imaginative writing. I may have to borrow a few of your sheep some night when sleep eludes me.

    The art you choose, your words upon which they rest, and your ability to craft a story are all something I appreciate and admire.

    Well done. Thank you.

  8. Had you gathered some of their wool, who knows what "dreamy" things you might've knitted during the wee hours!

  9. (The poem, I mean, not your sheep!)

  10. How brilliant this is Pamela!!! I feel your heart is in the wilds of england....many lives ago I lived on a scottish hill farm in the borders and had many an opportunity to count sheep in reality!!! have a peaceful night tonight.xx

  11. ok, now i am tired! what a wonderful post!!!

    and thanks for the comment. I liked the carither's house too - seemed so tame compared to his usual cluttered approach.


  12. I wish my nightly sheep companions were this interesting - I'll think of yours tonight as I'm trying to fall asleep! Leigh

  13. Im with Leigh at Brabourne Farm! x

  14. Thanks for the delightful diversion, Ms. Wordsmith!

  15. Your sheep are really adventurous. Mine usually huddle in a corner refusing to cooperate.

    Make yourself a cup of ginger tea before bed.
    Put 5 or 10 slices fresh ginger (depending on how hot you like it)into a mug. Pour boiling water over. Add a dash of lemon juice, honey to taste. Delicious and good for insomnia.

    Sleep well!

  16. Wordsworth is one of my favorite poet. The image of the sheep is wonderful as is your writing!

  17. I loved this....what a beautiful mind you have!

  18. I love your writing Pamela - and wonder if you were maybe having a little doze as you followed those sheep around.

  19. Dear Pamela,
    I was enthralled by your story, and your devotion to Edward.
    A beautiful piece of writing that held my interest all the way through, and cast a bit of a spell on me, as usual. XXXX

  20. Hahaha! I think your sheep had wills of their own. My mind works much the same way when i cannot sleep, except mine seems to make lists upon lists of what I didn't do and how to catch up in the morning. Not a way to induce sleep.

    Lovely images dancing in my head, as expected. ;)

  21. hahaha I love this Pamela
    My darn sheep having been just as unruly.. I had my first night sleep in about a month last night!! Thankfully... Hope the little rascals do a better job for you tonight!! xx julie

  22. Oh I loved this paen to sleeplessness. Edward is absolutely gorgeous

  23. Truly magical, Pamela, I enjoyed this so much - I could just see all those different sheep at their chosen destinations and what lovely ones too. Hope your next sleep is sheep free though:)

  24. Hello P&E,

    Methinks that you might have been dreaming all the while!

  25. oh how wonderful, the sheep getting a life of their own....

    I count bunnies if I can't sleep.

  26. Your writing is wonderful ! It's so nice to read.
    My sheeps, that I hope will help me with my sleep, doesn't always do as I say :)

    Have a good night's sleep !!


  27. Please don't waste that MIND.
    This was just beautiful.. I too have a wonderful dog in my bed
    when I get up so does he.
    Sweet Dreams tonight!!


  28. I love your enchanted tale of counting sheep in vain. If I had such an imaginative mind for company as you have, I wouldn't mind not sleeping.

  29. Oh Pamela, once a sleepless night rolls around I will gladly retell your lovely tale to myself and hopefully sneak quietly back into slumber!

    I bid you a Good Night!


  30. Hi, I do not kommentelni, but a regular visitor to the blog, which is very like it, and you have a gift for you: http://christine-interiordesignroom.blogspot.com/2010/02/dijat-kaptam.html

  31. You too, you too, x

    You bring something to the tradition of the romantic poet, humour.

  32. Oh, dear! I hope my post on “creative insomnia” didn’t send the blight to you. Oddly enough, I’ve been sleeping soundly since posting it. You have such an imaginative way of counting sheep – love it! I hope you are sleeping better now.

  33. Hugely entertained by your post this week Pamela.Isn't it annoying when you know you are going to be tired the next day but still you can't sleep. I have to try very hard to clear my mind in order to sleep. When I am really desparate I find a journey downstairs for a cup of tea and a chat to the cats helps enormously. If it is warm outside I will go and sit on one of the garden chairs and admire the stars.

  34. Oh dear, Pamela, you deserve a good night's sleep. Thank you for the enchanting visit with the sheep!

  35. I hope you did manage to sleep well after your restless roam with the sheep...xv


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!