A Wish for Solitude
It's far different from loneliness.
How on earth could it be November already? We had snow yesterday. Just a dusting, nothing to get all excited about, but the decks and roofs sparkled with it while the still-warm earth dissolved the flakes as they landed. It didn’t last long. Still, it was a sign. A warning of what’s to come. A signal that it might be time to pack up and leave, at least for the winter.
I’ve already been packing to leave this place, with the idea that I’d be moving on for good. But it’s not going to happen. Not yet. I thought I’d sold my house but the sale fell through so I won’t be moving as soon as I’d thought. I’m sad about it but there’s nothing I can do right now to change it.
So it’s on to Plan B.
I’m going to stay here on the island. Maybe for the entire winter.
The thought of staying was the furthest thing from my mind, even as recently as three days ago, but the more I thought about closing up and spending the winter downstate in the city, the more anxious I grew. I realized, as I began to pack up and to make lists of what I’d need to take and what I’d have to do before I left, that I didn’t really want to leave.
And then I thought, do I really have to leave? What if I stayed?
What if I stayed?
I considered the problems I might run into if I did that. Snow—maybe mountains of snow—would be one. Icy roads would be another. I would need to find someone to plow me out whenever the driveway and walkway needed it. (Done) I would need to make sure I had provisions enough to last me if I get snowed in at any point. (Can do) I would need to have enough firewood to keep the woodstove going in case of power outages. (I think I have enough) And I would have to think about being alone much of the time, when winter darkness comes and the world up here grows quiet.
I thought about loneliness and solitude and how one is awful and the other is, or can be, a relief.
I’m not a hermit by any means but I like being alone. I suppose every writer does, if we ever want to get any real work done, but most of the time we’re talking about hours alone.
I can be alone for days and it’s okay. I still have my lifelines—my phone, my internet, my friends and neighbors—but after a day or two of alone time, I get comfortable with it. I start talking out loud to myself, and I answer. I pad around the house, maybe in the same clothes I wore the day before, eating whenever and whatever I want, going to bed and getting up at any hour, even taking a shower with the bathroom door wide open.
When I’m alone like that I can write without breaking my concentration and it feels like a gift. Oddly disjointed thoughts can rattle around in my head and I don’t have to feel frantic about finding some quiet time to let them assemble. The TV is off. Every now and then I hear the furnace fan. I hear the thud of the keys as my fingers strike them. If I hear a sound outside, it’s just nature.
Quiet energizes me.
But I like people, too. I really do. None of this is to discourage anyone from calling or visiting. It’s just to say I’m okay when I’m alone. It suits me. And if I don’t want to be alone, I have options. I can visit. I can hop into town. I can head for the city if I have a notion.
That’s the difference between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is self-imposed and comforting. I even like the sound of the word. When I’m talking to myself maybe I’ll say it out loud:
And maybe I’ll even answer:
Want to hang with me when the snow flies? I’ll be here. If you subscribe, I’ll send you an email whenever something new hits me. But don’t worry—it won’t be so much you’ll regret it. And of course, we can always talk…