Solitude Calling

As I searched through my notebooks for some note I’d recently written, I came across a series of writings I did but don’t know when. Ironic that these should show themselves to me again in this season of my life when I’ve been running too hard, pushing myself in ways only my wife and one friend really knows about. A dream – the dream – the one I’ve lived with all this lifetime is pushing me, calling me, admonishing both hope and resistance, hesitation and ambition. And I’m worn out. But in the best way.

I wrote in one of the pieces of solitude, the thing I’ve been aching for. I’m sure the pieces were a series of timed-writings. I know that almost always a ten-minute write leaves me with one page of college-ruled paper filled with my scribbles. So, now, I want to share with you what I wrote on that day sometime in the past because it spoke to me now. (The words in italics are new additions to make a little more sense of the lines.)

“Solitude is big and empty and dry like a fallen leaf on the sidewalk. Touch it too aggressively and it crumbles, but look at it only and will last nearly forever.

Solitude has been my best companion; what bolsters me if I am to go out and greet the world. It is like a daily supplement or a medicine without which I would lose my mind. I’m no good without my morning retreats into quiet, alone with all the voices in my mind.

I prefer roadtrips by myself, long and short distance because I find quiet. You see, when I drive, my mind settles down. I don’t have conversation partners and I don’t have a notebook to process life with. So I just drive and feel the wind through the windo and the wind through my ears and the blood in my veins. It’s wonderful and terrible and not lonely unless I am tired.

I’m mostly a crabby old introvert who has a hard time with being overly sensitive to people’s energies (as in empathic tendencies) so I like being alone a lot. It‘s a damn good thing I like “me.”

It’s funny, though, that I am a bit social. It gets me out of the quiet into “real life.” But like May Sarton, I think real life begins when other people aren’t always present. It’s not easier – because the only one to grow weary of is myself. And I do.” (this is the end of the piece)

The things we as artists, as writers, as creative beings struggle with– like loneliness, like the need for and resistance to solitude, like having time to take those long roadtrips with nothing but the wind in our ears… well, life has taught me we don’t have to struggle about getting what we want or not getting what we want. Just to notice the tender feelings is enough. Let them be like the leaf on the sidewalk and see what happens, how long it takes to crumble and dissolve or get tracked away on the bottom of a boot.

These days, I yearn for solitude as much as I yearn for great conversation. They seem to stem from the same place that creates art, that writes the big heavy and the light fluffy and the spaces in between. Solitude lets me remember I can only take myself too seriously for so long. Then I need to chill out, relax my stance from uptight to laying on the ground sky-gazing with my inner dreamer, pointing out cloud formations and the Little Dipper.

Now it’s your turn. What are you noticing or finding in old notebooks these days that feels relevant to your current experience of life? And how is it affecting what you create?

Until next time,


2 Replies to “Solitude Calling”

  1. Lovely writing, both the original piece and the commentary.
    This rainy winter weather providing days away from the daily grind of my outdoor work has given me space to unfold the hours gently, noticing the inner critic evaluating my use of time in measurements of productivity, and saying, “No, this is okay. This time belongs to me.” So I feel the pull of retirement, yearning for more room for creativity to be informed by knowledge of who I am, which is enhanced by solitude. I had a tumultuous year, and stopped driving with the radio on as my default choice. It was usually NPR, and today’s politics made foregoing that easier, but I also found it essential not to listen to my favorite music station, either. I knew I just needed to be with the process of shedding another layer of illusory personality, like watching snow melt. Quiet is more important than maintaining cultural literacy, particularly right now for me. Noticing being in the state of yearning must always be the starting point for whatever we do with our time (and why I’m using all those gerunds in this comment).

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