I am no more lonely than
the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than
Walden Pond itself.
[Henry David Thoreau]
In Duke Ellington’s song, “Solitude,” he writes of lost love and despair. He writes, “I sit and I stare, I know that I’ll soon go mad in my solitude…”
In Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Solitude,” he writes at great length about the nurturing beauty and enriching companionship he finds in his solitude. He writes, “I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself.”
In the past seven decades, my attitude about solitude has become less Ellington and more Thoreau. Therein lies the key—attitude.
I pulled my neighbor’s Adirondack chair into the sun and sat in solitude this morning. The breeze was chilly for mid June, but the sky was blue and colors vibrant. I looked back at my home with its window boxes and lace curtains. Solitude for me was that moment in the middle of a city of 300,000 people when birds were the only sound and my furry buddy my only companion. I choose to live in relative solitude. It suits me. I can be alone when I need to work and think, and I can seek out companionship when I need to hear another human voice. I meet the public with more civility because I replenish my positive attitude when I am alone.
When I was a teen, I liked solitude for reading and for shutting out the cacophony of life with which I had not yet learned to cope. At the same time, I was experiencing the adolescent angst of wanting friends and wanting to be liked.
As a young adult, I was smitten with the desire for a life’s companion. That threw me into the midst of crowds of other young adults. I equated being busy with being alive. Solitude still drew me from time to time, but it also frightened me. Would I go through life alone?
In my family years, I sought solitude wherever I could find it—thirty minutes in the bath tub, or early morning coffee at the kitchen table. My life was so well populated that I equated solitude with escape into quiet.
There were spans of time when I was painfully lonely in spite of my full house, especially when I was tied to indifferent life companions. Then the time came when I was really alone. My children grew up. My parents died. My life companions simply left. I have not been lonely since. I have come to realize that the difference is because my solitude is a choice and is not enforced by one circumstance or another.
(The Story Circle Network is an international not-for-profit membership organization made up of women who want to document their lives and explore their personal stories through journaling, memoir, autobiography, personal essays, poetry, drama, and mixed-media. This was written for an internet circle affiliated with that group.)