My home sits on top of a knoll in parts of John Muir’s exploration territory in the east bay of San Francisco. It’s a rural valley, and people move out here for the peace and quiet to retreat from the world. Our neighborhood doesn’t even have real neighbors; we are all spread out with land around us. Sometimes, it feels like I’m the only one who lives here—yet sound does travel reminding me that just isn’t so.
I love the fresh breeze during the summertime, so I often keep my windows open–but this can be a problem. Towards the west end of my property, there’s a dog that breaks the silence of the night and barks between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. I always wonder if anyone actually lives with the dog. How could they not hear her carrying on like that in the middle of the night? Then, shortly after the barking subsides, the roosters begin their wake-up call around 4:00 a.m.
I know what you’re thinking: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Right?
Sweating the small stuff is about letting go of minor annoyances in your mind—not about not dealing with problems as they arise.
I constitute anything (other than fire or an emergency call) that interrupts my sleep at night as a problem. So, after one of these wakeful toss and turn nights, I went on search by foot for the barking dog.
I gave myself a pep talk and “practiced” my conversation in case I would be introducing myself to someone I hadn’t met in our neighborhood.
I wouldn’t say what I was thinking pre-dawn at 2:00 a.m.—actually, I was thinking it might be a good idea to sit out in front of their home with my car alarm going off until they came out to see what all the ruckus was about. Then say, “Oh, I’m so sorry—does this disturb you?” But, alas, that was pure fantasy!
Instead, I practiced being loving and kind in my approach. I would say, “Hello, I’m your neighbor, Kris, (Pointing to the white-trimmed windows peeking through the oak trees) I live right up there.”
“I came down because you may not be aware that your dog is barking for several hours every night, and I wake up and must close my doors and windows to get some sleep which makes it very hot and stuffy in my room. I bring my dog, Bear, in at night, because he would be barking too. Do you think you might be able to bring your dog in as well?” (Smiling, of course.)
Ironically, the family was away that day, and I didn’t speak with them directly. I spoke with a caretaker of the property and she shared with me that the dog’s name is “Whisper.”
I laughed out loud at the paradox of that.
It’s important to remember that we live in a world with other people. Peace and quiet in the night is a highly valued commodity–no matter where you live. Sleep is sacred, isn’t it?
We need a good amount of uninterrupted sleep, up to 7-9 hours each night, to live our most vibrant lives. Sleep aside, the lesson here is that being neighborly and kind is important on both sides of the fence.
I hope that, soon, I’ll be sleeping more and only listening to the whisper of the wind!