Here's an ominous sign of something--I'm not sure what. On some recent nights I've awakened (as to what awakened me, ask any male older than 40!) to discover that my mouth is wide open and as dry inside as the Gobi. My initial response? WTF!?!?!?!?!
I don't seem to be alone. When I just typed mouth breathing at night into Google, I got some 6.5 million hits. One of them was this alarming headline from a site called "Dr. Park":
Attention All Mouth Breathers – 5 Important Reasons Why You Must Breathe Through Your Nose
Here's a link to the site if you want to check it out for yourself: Link. There are some chilling things there about mucous--and how much your nose generates each night. (Hint: A lot!) This ranks high among the many things I never really wanted to know.
Also, I'm not sure I want to be called "Mouth Breather"--it sounds a little--what?--feral? Simian? I know that the expression has negative connotations. I just checked the OED for confirmation:
2. N. Amer. slang. A stupid person.That's not nice. And not a group whose membership I'm all that eager to join. (For one thing, I don't believe it's a very exclusive organization.)
So why the open mouth at night? Am I congested? (I don't think so.) Am I developing a new habit? (I hope not.) Do I subconsciously enjoy a Gobi-mouth? (Not likely.) Am I waiting to be fed? (Picture baby birds in the nest, Mom or Dad winging in with a warm worm.)
Or--horror of horrors--am I practicing for some sort of terminal rictus? The frozen slack-jawed expression I'll present to the world when Fate decides it's time for me To Give up the Ghost? I'd far rather, of course, reveal my Ryan Gosling face when I depart, but, of course, that face is no longer available to me. (Okay, it never was.)
I think I prefer a metaphorical explanation for my mouth wide open. Traditionally, it's a look of surprise, of wonder, of astonishment. And that's the way I feel a lot of the time while I'm accelerating with alarming speed through life these days. There are just so many things that astonish me--in so many different ways. From some words in Waiting for Godot to a bite of a honey-wheat bagel to a windmill along an interstate, a cloud formation in the west, that first sip of Pike Place in the morning, a voice from yesteryear, a memory of my father, my sourdough starter, bubbling and ready to use, a funny cutaway on Arrested Development, a heartfelt comment on Facebook, a sentence in The Mill on the Floss, a sentence that somehow surges from somewhere and flows out of my own fingers, a soulful act of generosity from a former student, a son's tears, a grandson's laugh, Joyce's playful smile and capacious heart.
And so now, as I think about it--it's surprising that my mouth isn't wide open the whole blessed day long.