Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Benefits of Solitude

Sometimes a person needs to get away in order to find out what is important and to shed the extraneous worries and cares of daily life and business. We then come back refreshed and ready to conquer the world. The important thing is to conquer our own doubts and demons first, for only then are we armed with the confidence needed to meet our goals.

H.D. Thoreau wrote that he went to the woods that he might live life more deliberately. What a goal! To be deliberate about our lives. So often, as life gets busier and more demanding, I find myself swimming with the current, just trying to keep my head above water, doing what is expected of me as best I can. Nothing deliberate about it, except to meet the most pressing obligations as they arise.

Time spent alone in the woods, the mountains, or your favorite nook and hideaway offers time to reflect on who you are and what matters most to you. So it was for me last weekend, as I packed up the car, bid my family farewell, giving them no more information than that I was going camping. I did have one stowaway, however. When I finally arrived at my destination after a couple other stops to pick up what I had first forgotten, Hannah, our elderly black Labrador, revealed herself and joined me for the night under a star-studded heaven brilliant enough to take my breath away. This gorgeous display appears on clear nights at least monthly during the new moon and on other nights when the moon has not yet risen, while I sleep under a protective roof, oblivious to the beauty. It's a bit sad.

Born in a high mountain valley in the Colorado Rockies, I spent a lot of my life among the natural beauty of the alpine forests and meadows. It is in such a setting that I feel most at home. Montana offers many pristine forests, lakes, and streams, for those who find time to venture forth and find them. I sit in my office, where I can look out at near hills and distant peaks, too absorbed in work or electronic distractions to take advantage of the natural offering of peace and introspection. After last weekend I have vowed that I will go to the hills, alone, more often.

I think an important part of the kind of camping I do is the simplicity of it; the leaving of THINGS behind. Things provide distractions to keep you from looking inward and meeting yourself face on. Thoreau also said that "a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone." He says that the cost of a thing is the amount of what he calls life that is required to be exchanged for it. "When the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him." I see that. The more things we accumulate the more we are tied down by them. Do we, as Thoreau suggests, settle down on earth and forget heaven?" Shedding our material possessions, at least for a time, and returning to nature, losing the obstructions between ourselves and the heavens, we have a better chance, like Thoreau, "to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

In both life and writing, I hope to follow his advice and seek, "simplicity, simplicity, simplicity." By letting go of daily cares, the muse is free to lead my pen to truth through stories that have substance.

1 comment:

... said...

Thanks so much for all your nice comments. It's very nice to meet you. I'm glad you liked my journal cover 'The Barn'. I am really flattered. Have a great day.