A Lone Bird

Photo: A Lone BirdSolitude is not always lonesome; it can be a deeply joyful place of peace and calm. It can be an inward-looking, melancholic sweetness tinged with nostalgia or the cosmic silence in which every breath becomes a prayer. To be alone in the worldly sense never denies the possibility of a welcome, comforting Other presence, or the awesome sweep of knowing that reassures, despite all challenges, that one has a place in the universe, however small.

Formless in the mist, obliterated by dark and storm, or shut from sight by suffering or fear, the things that ordinarily create a sense of normalcy or rootedness may not be gone, but in the state of being all alone, anyone can become convinced she is alone, and that solitude is a burden or a punishment. But in the stillness, too, is the possibility of deeper thought, of slipping into a state where the good and the powerful and the blessed things that fill the spirit—when there are fewer distractions of person-place-or-thing to prevent it—well up and are renewed.

Winter in My Soul

Winter lends itself, more than any other time of year I think, to the welcome sort of solitude and melancholy that fills me up with meditative calm. It can feel bleak and beautiful at the same time, as long as I’m not in a particularly dark place emotionally. The kind of cold and emptiness that sear the lungs and sting the eyes can sometimes set the soul on fire with inspiration and, concomitantly, a sort of scraped-clean elation.Photo montage + text: Writing & Silence

Doesn’t Matter If I’m the Only One

There are ways in which solitude and solitary pleasures are among the loveliest, the most inexplicably un-shareable delights we can have. Even those things that are enhanced by happy sharing with one companion, or many, can only be experienced internally in our own unique ways, through our own highly individualized filters and lenses of taste, belief, experience, knowledge, and longing.Digital illustration: From this Angle

The beauty of this is that the best things I experience or encounter can be met at several different levels. Even when I am among a host of fellow travelers on the occasion, I can have that communal adventure and be guided and shaped in my sense of its goodness and meaning by any or all of those around me, while the reflections in my heart may say to me, “and yet…” or find me collecting all of the data of the moment in some private interior compartment for later examination.

In those after-times, I am at leisure to contemplate the whole and all of its components and think whatever I will, feel whatever I will, now that I’m left to my own devices. From this slightly removed angle, my own particular skew, I may find that the true enjoyment of this part of my life comes as much from within, from my imperfect yet fully tailored perspective being so well suited to make me like what I have seen, heard, tasted, and sensed in it. That is a subtly different but wholly wonderful part of living life: being able, in solitude (whether actually alone or not) to see what is marvelous and admirable, exciting and fine, to me on my very own terms.

I Love Cities

Those who visit here with some frequency know that I am mighty fond of the rural landscape and its many, many charms, but it might not be quite as obvious that I am equally smitten, often enough, with the joys of urban life. Some of my happiest times and most exciting and meaningful adventures are attached to various wonderful and fabulous cities where I’ve been privileged to live or spend time.photo + text

Whenever anyone asks me to name my favorite cities where I’ve visited or spent any little amount of time, the first places that come to mind are truly lively, astoundingly adventure-filled places. I’m not big on bravery or constant busyness or the unknown, as you may well know by now, but I always manage to find myself energized and passionate about what these fabulous environs have to offer at every turn. It turns out that there is no shortage of urban places that fill me with dazzling delight. In addition to my hometown of Seattle, there are so many other magnificent cities for me to love wildly, places like Stockholm, Boston, Vienna, San Francisco, Munich, Cincinnati, Oslo, San Antonio, Vancouver, New York, Prague, Chicago, and London—for starters.photo + text

I will always crave my quiet time, and often that’s best found in the sweet, laid-back grace of the countryside, removed from cities’ bustling pace. But besides that it is possible to find moments of peace right in the middle of any major metropolis, if one only knows how and where to look, there is the inherent buzz and boisterous beauty of urban life to enjoy as well, and I am not at all immune to that kind of happiness when I can bask in it. I suppose the root of the whole equation is always, quite simply, to seek my well-being wherever I happen to find myself.

Ashore

Islands can bring out the hermit in people, as it seems–and conversely, the social butterfly. Some who go to islands voluntarily either do so out of the desire to cut themselves off, at least partly, from social pressures and demands or come to embrace the opportunity that appears when they’ve become islanders. But involuntary islanders, the marooned (whether by shipwreck or by job transfer), can often feel contact-deprived. Suddenly people who had no particular desire for company on a regular basis feel socially abandoned and hungry; who knew?

Me, I have never lived on an island. Certainly never been set adrift and stuck on one against my will. And I happen to have pretty serious hermitage skills when I want to haven them: I’m a master at finding the quietest, remotest, emptiest corner of any place when I sincerely desire it. So I don’t generally have to wrestle through either of those dire, trying situations mentioned above. And also, I don’t really expect to run into such a situation any time soon.

That means I rather like my visits to islands, which visits are thus far entirely intentional (unless you count wrong turns onto bridges leading to them), and I like aloneness enough to seek it. Even on an island, if need be. Truthfully, though, I’m quite happy to visit islands any time I can, for holidaying purposes. Whidbey Island, Molokai, Ireland, Vancouver Island, Puerto Rico . . . I will be glad to return to these and visit many another any time I might have the chance. Let me wander inland and explore the beauties beyond the islands’ perimeters. Perch me on a rock by the shore and I will be happy, no, delighted to spend my time in good company or solitude, either one.photo