Canopy BedCanopy Bed

Canopy BedCanopy Bed


Fate would have it that the old brass bed, the same one that my great grandfather slept in, would align with our bedroom window so well.

Canopy BedCanopy BedCanopy Bedpillow talk photo

With the second story window opening next to my supine self, there is maybe an inch between the top of the mattress and the windowsill. On recent nights, I’ve tucked  the familiar dried piece of birch sapling in place to hold the double hung window open.  Our house  is over a century old and the inconvenience of blocking a window opening is almost pleasing. With the window “locked” open I can push my pillow onto the window sill and practically  lay my head outdoors. It is the closest thing to camping while sleeping in my home.

Walt Whitman, one of America’s most beloved poets, urges us in the lines of Songs of the Open Road to live robust lives and “inhale great drafts of air.”

In sleeping nightly, almost in the oak canopy just outside the window, I am following his advice as dictated in his highly touted poem,  Leaves of Grass.

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air, and to eat and sleep with the earth.”

It is said that sleeping outdoors strengthens one’s immune system and improves overall physical vigor and endurance. An additional benefit is found among the nocturnal sounds. Buzzing and chirping insects, rustling leaves or sighing winds through pine boughs create a soothing white noise that lullabye asleep.


Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish scientist, often dubbed the “father of botany,” flung open his family’s house windows in the summer to simply hear bird and insect song.

But that wasn’t enough. Linnaeus so loved the male cricket’s courting stridulations that he even secretly released live crickets into their Uppsala home. These courting songs produced only by the male crickets did little to excite his wife, Sara. She was not pleased with the housebound crickets and did her best to rid the household of them. When the house cricket music lessened, Carl quietly found more replacements.

Another fellow Scandinavian, Norwegian polar explorer, Roald Amundson loved the practice of open windows. He was a giant in polar exploration and was the first human to reach the South Pole and the first to fly successfully over the North Pole.


His open window sleeps were not seasonal. As a means of acclimating himself to cold weather, he also allowed the Norwegian winter night into his bedroom.

While lying in our bed, spirited by fresh air,  I am privileged to experience the blessed duality of my mate snuggled next to me and to sleepily peer out the window at an emerging spring morning. My gaze takes me directly into the craggy branches of a dear bur oak that I have christened the “home place oak.”

In the bold annual act of pushing open the window, I am declaring winter’s end. Some years, like this I clearly rushed the issue and I had to pull the birch out and set it aside for another week or more.  Recent chilly nights have both not  freshened our sleep but also prolonged the need for the down comforter. And I am assured more snuggling.

Usually the first grand window openings are in April. It is then that I bear witness to the sassiness of courting crows and even the occasional guttural croak of neighborhood ravens. Ravens have steadily become a newer fixture in our parts and I am partial to their corvid calls.

By mid-April, I am assured of being awakened prior to sunrise when the roosting male turkeys gobble their dominance to other males and more importantly, their readiness to put on the strut for the hen turkeys.

Call it cruel, but I love having a morning chat with the gobblers. I sometimes keep my mouth turkey call on the windowsill. After I’m awakened by a distant gobble, I can slip the call into my mouth and either gives him a challenging gobble or a seductive hen cluck.

The first time I did this, I learned that it is to my advantage to awaken and warn Miss Nancy of my turkey talk. To do otherwise, threatens the snuggling part I mentioned.

In May, I get to witness the amazing daily transformation of opening oak leaves. My favorite view is early spring when the all the trees within view of my bed, wear a different shade of green. Most are muted and soft. By the time we hit June, the colors all blend to a sameness of dark green.

But it is when the tiny bundles of new bur oak leaves emerge that I await the tassels of butter-colored, catkins. Even at this stage the tiny oak leaves are easily recognizable as bur. Unlike other local oaks, the top of the bur oak leaf throughout it’s growth is . . .well burly. It has the look of broad shoulders. Like the white oak the lobes of the leaf are rounded. But the white oak does not share the broad shoulder and tapered profile of a bur.

Before things leaf out much, early dawns become noisier with bird song. I find I wake up more fully when I hear the slurry, robin like call of a rose breasted grosbeak that perches only feet away.

Pillow birding is an amazing sport. Without lifting my head, I have simultaneously spied four species of warblers from the home place oak. The breaking sunshine illuminated each of them. All bore the colors of a painter’s pallet.  Less than four bed lengths from me was a Blackburnian warbler, a Chestnut-sided warbler, an American redstart and a yellow warbler. It was so newsworthy that I dared disturb Miss Nancy’s sleep. I nudged her foot with mine and  excitedly hissed the discovery of newfound colors in the home place oak.

These are indeed the secrets of making the best persons.





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