“Leave Me Alone!”

I’m a solitary person by inclination. I spend most of my time alone. I’m a “friendly introvert.” I like people very much. I love it when my neighbor stops by on her morning walk and we chat away a half-hour or so. I love it when I’m out with the dogs and find myself engaging with kids. I’m not bristly, brusque, hostile or anything like that. I’m just solitary.

As a kid I was always trying to be alone, but it was hard. My mom had some problem with closed doors and if I went into my room and closed the door, within minutes the woman would be there opening the door and saying, “What are you trying to hide?”

I always responded with, “Leave me alone!” and THAT always led to,

“I’m your mother. I have a right to know.”

THAT escalated to a fight. Invariably. Even if all I was doing was reading a book, as I was wont to do back in the days when I was a reader.

I always knew my marriages or marriage-like-things were over when, if the guy was gone when I got home from work, and I realized he wasn’t there, I felt relief, peace, even, yes, joy. A few episodes of this over the decades, and I knew that I probably only wanted men to visit.


I believe solitude is necessary to art, and it is certainly necessary to writing.

When I was writing Martin of Gfenn, my first novel and first experience of that nature, I remember being totally absorbed for months. Every morning I went to school, taught and ran a writing lab. I bored everyone by talking about medieval lepers and what I was writing. Then I went home, took the dogs hiking, returning and seeking, again, that absorption.

When I finished the novel it was about 8 pm on a winter night. I got up from my chair and wondered where everyone was. Then I understood no one writes with a bunch of people around laughing and talking and sharing the experience. I could draw in coffee houses, grade papers and I probably could have done some writing there had I owned a laptop at the time ( ha ha ) but to truly concentrate and allow the story to live? Solitude.

“Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. — Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights.” Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Luckily, I live in a place where it doesn’t seem to be that strange to be alone. the San Luis Valley is full of introverts — I think it might be a prerequisite for happiness in this large remote valley.


Another Solitude

“…And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. …. the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other. … Letters to a Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke”


“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”


People enjoy discussing (ironically) the distinction between solitude and loneliness. I’ve heard several of these arguments — first in high school when my teacher was trying to explain the importance of solitude to poets (especially, it seemed, during the Romantic Period). I remember standing up for solitude and trying to explain it, but ultimately all I wanted to do was get home and go for a run in The Bluffs with my dog and my best friend and her dog. I always felt pushed against a wall in those discussions

I’m comfortable with solitude, though when I was younger I felt very strongly the pressure that exists to have friends and a social life. Over time I began to see that’s society’s idea of “normal” because it’s probably what makes most people happy, but I have never been the kind of person that a lot of people even like. I have never really “fit in.” I’ve been accused of being “rebellious” but I’m not; there is just a kind of belief that if a person is not like the others he or she is doing it “on purpose.” I never was. I just always have had a different set of intrinsic motivations. I never wanted a family and children; in fact, that whole idea disgusted me from the get-go. I don’t dispute that raising children well is a major success, but when people complain about the difficulty, my teeth itch and I think, “Shut up, fool. It was your choice.” For that matter, I spent my working years preparing other people’s children for adulthood and I loved my job.

I never got the idea about material success. I just didn’t get it. I am not ambitious, though I’ve had a few ambitions. If it’s because I had the opportunity to watch my dad’s struggle with a degenerative and fatal disease which taught me early the futility of much of human endeavor, I don’t know. I don’t honestly think so. I think it’s genetic. The times I tried hardest to fit the mold led me to my life’s greatest misery, but I fought it a long time, until I recognized that social interaction — at a certain point — bored and tired me and I was happier with a balance; 75% solitude, 25% socialization.



“Most of my wandering in the desert I’ve done alone. Not so much from choice as from necessity – I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


To him who in the love of Nature holds   
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks   
A various language; for his gayer hours   
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile   
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides   
Into his darker musings, with a mild   
And healing sympathy, that steals away   
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.  William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis”

The friend I could always rely on has been the companion to many in their solitude and that is nature. Nature has always had the power to intensify and open a solitary moment; it seems capable of sharing it. It’s enough just to cross the little Monte Vista Golf Course, into and through the bottom of the driving range (pasture) into the open fields, past the log buildings of the old broken down farm, until there is nothing but sky, mountains, changing light, wind — a storm front or a sweet breeze. Step by step I feel my heart fill, my shoulders relax leaving only joy at being out under the open sky, ringed by mountains, in the infinite space of the natural world. There have been a few friends in my life with whom I’ve been able to share that experience and I’m grateful for having known them. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share ones solitude.



One is the Loneliest Number?

Daily Prompt Cut Off When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?

Yesterday I met one of my neighbors for the first time since I moved to a rather remote Colorado small town in October. Yep. Haven’t met anyone between October 21 and February 23. “Aren’t you lonely?” she asked midway into our conversation.

We were exchanging information about ourselves, where we came from all that, how we find the town. As I was describing my experience of moving here, I could see her impressions reflected in her face. She thought I was either very crazy or courageous. “Do you know anyone here?”


“How did you pick Monte Vista?”

“I saw a house I liked online and came last summer to look at it. It was impossible, but I liked the town and the San Luis Valley is so beautiful.”

Her situation was different. Her husband got a job here and so they moved. Her kids live in Albuquerque and Denver, so they are halfway between them. Not too close, not too far. A lot closer than they were in the northern mid-western town they came from. I wasn’t sure she liked it here; I was sure that she was glad to meet me and, at the same time, a big hesitant. Solitary women are sometimes a little scary to people.

That is the question I’ve gotten most frequently since I decided to move here is “Do you know anyone?” I’ll admit it’s a little embarrassing when I have to answer that question (at the doctor’s or something) and I have had to say “No.” For an emergency contact I give my friend in Colorado Springs. At least the area code is Colorado…

Solitude has a stigma attached to it. We’re social animals (most of us) and from the time we’re kids in school wanting to belong to the “cool kids” we feel shame in being alone; especially women, I think. If no one “wants” us and we’re alone, we’re rejects. My Aunt Martha never married; she never wanted to. Her attitude toward men (she was straight, so that’s not the issue) was that they were great, but that there was nothing they could do that she couldn’t do. She liked them, she worked well with them, she had her share of lovers, but she didn’t want one full time. She had good woman friends and a large family (sisters), but as they slipped into infinity, she was still fine. She had no problem living with herself.

If you are alone, and not comfortable with yourself, you will be lonely. Many people are unsure of their value — or even of their existence — if someone is not with them.  The problem for such a person, however, is that all the company in the world will not fill the void.

These days — with the internet (Hello everyone!) we are afforded more chances for connection. I am sure that my four months here would have felt more isolated if I had not brought friends with me via my laptop. At the same time, though, it made it less necessary for me to emerge from my house in search of human contact.Most people move to their people, their kids, their friends.

I would have moved to Colorado Springs where I have friends, but I couldn’t afford it. As one of my friends said, “It’s OK. This way we get to come and visit you and you get to come and visit us.” So far it’s given all of us a little bigger world with more adventures. And, when you visit your friends and they visit you, you get to spend a different kind of time with them than you ever spend with friends in the same town.

I’m a writer and a painter and those are not things you do with a group of pals. I love it when I have the chance to hang out with my friends, but because of who I am, I very seldom feel “lonely.” Life’s too short, anyway.

Here’s a beautiful song on the subject — don’t be afraid to listen to it because you think you don’t like new music. You might very well like this one. Beck, “Blue Moon.”