On Being Left Alone, Outdoors


When I don’t get enough solitude, I grit my teeth over simple things. My creativity becomes a stagnant, shallow creek. Real solitude, the kind I need, is quiet, alone with my dog in nature. People ask me if I get lonely—but the truth is, loneliness is seeking solitude and not finding it.

This morning, a friend suggested I get “out” of the house by going to the office—on a holiday… on my day off. That got me thinking.  Have I wrongly assumed everyone shares a longing to touch the wildness within by being outside?

When my well has run dry inside, I go outside. That’s my office. That’s how I replenish. I find the alone and unknown. My mind grows quiet thankfully, as my soul speaks like water. Alone with trees and leaves and animals and earth, I find my own inner world, and my outer “self” vanishes. What a relief, to be so free of the human world and its demands, its anguish, and to be quenched in solitude. I long for closeness to the few remaining wild spaces people haven’t yet plundered. I seek total autonomy.

These winter months—and a leg injury—have kept me from being outdoors and from being creative: my cup runneth nowhere. Just today, I ventured out and could not escape people, whether on land or water, high ground or lowlands. People, noises, and the “junk” of human existence; it’s inescapable.

Our modern search for satisfaction gets us lost, quick. Deep down, I don’t want the convenience of stores, and gadgets, although I share reliance upon them. And people who like being indoors perplex me. For them, the outdoors is something in between the car and the house and the store. They enjoy the outdoors by focusing on equipment to survive it, as if they can conquer the environment. This isn’t our animal self. If I can’t get lost in the porous natural world, I might as well be made of gortex.

And that’s why I haven’t traveled the world in search of the highest peak, or climbed the sheerest cliff. I prefer the humility of looking up at the mountains in awe and reverence and sleeping outside in a meadow, sheltered by their granite boulders. I don’t seek thrill. I just know there is more to this world in the mystery of the wild. I’d like to move through it quietly, gently, with a soft footstep.

Without this, with only pavement beneath my toes, I thirst, and dry up. For some camping means taking a pop-up trailer to a parking lot by a man-made lake, grilling on a Weber, and throwing aluminum beer cans at each other. This is not what it’s about. And I can’t seem to escape this world.

Are creature comforts, the urban landscape of convenience, the obsession with coffee and artifice, the addiction to being online, to cranking up the heater in mild weather, suffocating the wild within?

I mourn that I cannot truly be left undisturbed. Thoreau said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” But how does one find true solitude—autonomy—these days? How do you do it without being able to own the Earth beneath your feet? How can I howl at the moon if I can’t find a long life, alone and truly free? I’m frightened at the idea that my path might continue this way, and the urge to be untrammeled by humans is one of imperative, not philosophy. I must find a way.



Published by JM

I am a writer, a wildlife conservationist, a teacher, an activist and a mama.

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