Monthly Archives: April 2021

My DSPS story: the boy at the mouth of the cave.

Night sky by Heather Hunsinger 2020

Night sky by Heather Hunsinger 2020

I am disabled across many axes. One of the most painful is my circadian rhythm disorder, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome or Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.

It has caused me torment most of my life. Going to school, going to work, has been a nightmare from babyhood. I felt lazy, defective and also physically ill every time I had to get up before noon. Since that was most days of my life up to 2011, we’re talking about feeling like you have severe jet lag for about 7,000 days. Plus, shame.

I was nauseous and sick with pain one 10am at work at a startup in 2011; my nice colleague said a cheery “Good morning!” and I suddenly intuited that there was something physically different between us. I googled “can’t wake up in the morning” and instantly learned that there was something real that was different about me. I found a sleep doctor at Stanford, I kept a sleep log, I did a sleep study and got diagnosed; I was laid off my job and got a sweet year of unemployment.

I wrote this story after reading something about how DSPS, perhaps caused by a clock-gene mutation, may have served prehistoric cultures by providing alert night guardians.

I was so lucky to have a mother who was compassionate and accepting of my different clock; this is a story for parents like her to read to their little babies who are up at 1am.

Let me tell you a story.

Long ago, long ago before wheels and fields and lightbulbs, a boy sat in the mouth of a cave. Inside the cave slept everyone he loved. He sat at the mouth of the cave and added wood to the fire, and all night long the night spread out around him, vast and velvet and indeed, full of stars. He looked at the constellations in their moonset houses and he breathed in the stillness of that hour after midnight when the air stills and the night is suddenly warm. He ate from the bowl of food his mother had given him before she went to sleep.

And at dawn, he went inside the cave and shook his cousin or his brother’s shoulder, and slipped into the warm furs where they had slept while he kept watch.

Once, during the spring migration, they camped beside a band whose wise woman was a person like him. For those few nights, after the young women had brought them gourds of stew and baskets of berries and prized bits of honeycomb wrapped in leaves and then gone to bed, he sat up with the wise woman by the fire. They talked in the dark about the nighttime things that only they knew – the sound of the night hunters dragging home their prey, the sheets of ice on the lake cracking in the spring, the color of false dawn.

She told him about her oldest daughter, who was taken from the cave of the tribe she had joined one winter night by a saber-tooth. That tribe had no Night Person, and the watchman had fallen asleep and let the fire go out.

He told her about the night, during the Second Winter of No Game, when a cave lion with a dull coat and sharp ribs came softly softly to the mouth of the cave, and he flung a brand in its face and it bolted, and the sleepers never knew.

She told him about her youngest daughter, who was born a Night Person, and showed him the fine dowry of furs and beads and bowls and hand axes from the fortunate Southern band she joined.

And she told him about the meteor shower she watched alone as a young woman; she shook her husband’s shoulder, but he never woke.

The boy lived a long life, and he marked the courses of the stars in ochre on the cave walls, and when he died they wrapped him in the skins of night hunters.

*Beautiful photograph of the desert sky by Heather Hunsinger, 2020, used with permission. Visit Heather’s art site or follow Heather on Instagram for gorgeous nature photos, including an amazing series on raptors.

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to work as an artist and writer.

A birthday at Lutter & Wegner, with the vintage songs of Sir Henry De Winter!

T and A at party at Lutter & Wegner by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018I met a lovely pair of gentlemen outside a club in Berlin one night.

We strolled and chatted and I showed them my drawings from the night. Not long after, I got an email from one of them, T, who wished to hire me to draw at his husband A’s 60th birthday party.

Sir Henry de Winter at As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018The party was held at Lutter & Wegner seit 1811, a beautiful historic restaurant walking distance from our flat.

Lutter & Wegener seit 1811 is so cozy and gorgeous, a charming interior of dark wood and white linen. It was filled with flowers from the couple’s floral design business.

Sir Henry de Winter, seen above and below, performed vintage songs of the Berlin 1920s. Marvelous!!!!!

He is an absolute legend of Berlin! His website is here, instagram is here, you can hire him to sing at your event! (hopefully, soon, when there are events again.)

Sir Henry de Winter performs at As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018 The party was 1920s themed and everyone wore fancy dress!

Everyone looked divine.

Party guests at As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018

Guest at As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018

Guests on As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018A on his 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018The couple brought their “daughter”, a sweet little dog.

You can bring a dog to most restaurants in Germany. Shocking to my US readers!

Folx on As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018The pup snuck into several of the pictures!

The restaurant staff were incredibly kind and the food was delicious.Pup at Lutter und Wegner seit 1811 on As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018

Lutter und Wegner Seit 1811 staff on As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018 Here the staff gather at the end of the night.

As they knew my clients very well, the atmosphere was very friendly and great care was taken with everything.

Dancing on As 60th Birthday by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018

Of course there was much drinking of fancy wine, and dancing!

But far more exciting to me, there was chocolate mousse cake!
Guest in cap at party at Lutter & Wegner by Suzanne Forbes Feb 10 2018

I switched to brown Kraft paper at the end of the night.

this was about a year into my beginning to add color to my drawings!Child at As party by Suzanne Forbes feb 10 2018

I believe this child was wearing his grandfather’s antique silk topper.

Of course in Berlin tweens come to fancy parties and stay up very late having fun!

I had the most wonderful time, documenting this group of dear friends and this loving couple in such a beautiful setting. I believe times like this will come again, of course, though my own health has devolved enough that I may never draw all night like this again.

T at Lutter und Wegner seit 1811 by Suzanne Forbes 2018And so I am so grateful to my wonderful clients, who invited me into this dream of Berlin that night.

*drawings shared with their consent of course, I lost the scans for a while so it took me a long time to post them!