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Late night company

| Wednesday, September 26, 2018

I am not a natural insomniac, but when I arrived back on campus in August, bringing with me plenty of uneasiness about the new year, sleep became … more challenging, I guess. Unable to get my mind off of my anxieties, it would take me a couple hours to settle down.

One late night, frustrated with my own restlessness, I headed to the Grotto. For the first time, I found it completely empty. For the first time, I had it all to myself. I sat down on a bench and let out a sigh.

My head was still swimming with worry, but my surroundings were impossibly still. I realized how much I missed the quietness of real solitude. I could let go of the self-consciousness of the daytime and just pray. Drawn to it, I started going every night.

Not more than a few days later, however, I found out I wasn’t the only one who likes late nights at the Grotto.

I was back on one of the benches, with my eyes closed, trying to concentrate. I heard a sound and opened them. A little toad had hopped in front of me.

Not wanting him to get lost, I picked him up and put him in by the trees. I was surprised — I  hadn’t seen a frog on campus yet — but I was happy to have the company.

As I put him down, I wondered what he thought of me. He probably couldn’t have cared less about what I was doing there or the worries that had kept me up that night. I’m not sure why, but thinking that way helped me put my problems into perspective.

Since then, I’ve seen a whole host of animals there — and I don’t mean they’re hiding in the shrubs or the flowers or anything. You don’t have to look for them; they come right out onto the pavement.

Bunnies standing statue-still under the lampposts, watching skeptically. Chipmunks darting around the rocks. Spiders weaving webs between the candles. Pill bugs and ants milling about.

The sound of cicadas and crickets saturating the air.

These days, I still go to the the Grotto daily, but not nearly as late. I’ve been sleeping a little easier, thankfully.

Still, I hold those nights special for the unique sense of peace they gave me. When I think back to them, I can’t help but remember one of my favorite prayers, “To Live with the Spirit” by Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D. It’s in the little book you get when you’re a freshman.

Though I love the whole prayer, this is my favorite part:

“To live with the Spirit of God is becoming love, and like to him toward whom we strain with metaphors of creatures: fire-sweep and water-rush and the wind’s whim.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Mary Steurer

Mary is a senior sociology major and journalism minor from St. Louis. An aspiring religion reporter, Mary has spent the last year covering conversations about the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis at Notre Dame.

Contact Mary