Our family experiences a lot of solitude.
It's inevitable where we live. It takes a lot more work to socialize, certainly more than just stepping out our front door where we're far more likely to bump into a deer than a person. Therefore our default status is solitude.
Solitude is defined as "the state of being or living alone; remoteness from habitations; or a lonely, unfrequented place." If you consult a thesaurus, you'll notice there's not really many flattering synonyms for solitude. The best the English language can offer is Loneliness, Privacy, Isolation, Seclusion. They all have negative connotations, as if solitude is something to be avoided.
But our family loves solitude. Each one of us thrives on Loneliness, Privacy, Isolation, and Seclusion.
While undoubtedly there are some intensely social types for whom solitude is a panicky state of affairs devoutly to be avoided, this clearly isn't universal. In fact, if you google "the longing for solitude" on the internet, you find a lot of people who long to "find" themselves and so depart far away in order to locate what apparently has been lost. Invariably they discover what they're seeking, pen some heartfelt poetry, and return once again to their normal, crowded lives. In other words, solitude is considered at best a temporary state of affairs, a time to recharge one's batteries before facing the Real World once again.
But it also seems to be a psychological necessity. Psychology Today notes, "What's really blocking our joy in relationships, our creativity, and our peace of mind? One surprising answer, in this age of alienation, is a lack of solitude. Meaningful alonetime, it turns out, is a powerful need and a necessary tonic in today's rapid-fire world. Indeed, solitude actually allows us to connect to others in a far richer way.
Invariably, solitude meets with social questioning, if not censure. Even worse, people associate going it alone with antisocial pursuits and unnecessary risk taking. Perhaps most striking, solitude conjures up pangs of loneliness."
In other words, solitude is an apologetic longing, as if it's shameful not to thrive in crowds or need a break once in awhile from the hustle and bustle.
And while solitude is acknowledged as good and necessary, no one quite knows what to do with people who prefer solitude.
Not all of us who seek solitude are "lost." Some of us have found solitude to be so enjoyable that we've made it our normal status quo. In fact it might be argued that we solitary types have already "found" ourselves and are subsequently so comfortable being alone or with beloved family members that we have no need to buffet our senses with a great number of others.
I hope this doesn't sound like we don't wish to socialize with friends and neighbors because nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we are blessed to have neighbors who are also friends and with whom we enjoy socializing.
What I mean is, we do not miss the intensely and unavoidably social environs of urban life. I see photos of full stadiums, and it makes me recoil. I have absolutely no desire to be among such a sea of humanity.
There's a certain beauty in urban landscapes, but I couldn't live there. Been there, done that.
I find myself far more drawn to photos of lonely, beautiful spots:
Lately on my Pandora station, I've been "up thumbing" examples of early church music and Gregorian chants to supplement my beloved selection of Baroque classical music. Perhaps unconsciously I recognize the pull of solitude early Christians felt in order to hear the voice of God more clearly.
These early Christians were merely part of a subset of humanity who has always preferred solitude to society. Thoreau is probably the best known example, but consider these lines from William Butler Yeats (1839-1922):
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Even Jane Austen in her book Emma has Jane Fairfax lament, "Oh! Miss Woodhouse, the comfort of being sometimes alone!"
I get up very early in the morning, sometimes around 4 am. In the winter this means I light the woodstove and feel the flames gradually start to warm the house. The dawn breaks hours later, and it's my habit to walk outside to release the chickens, then sneak into the barn to watch the deer that can invariably be found at the edge of the woods, browsing.
In the summer these early hours means I'm privileged to listen to meadowlarks and robins as they greet the day. Sometimes I see dawn rainbows on the edge of a retreating shower.
It's because we have the luxury of lots of solitude that we enjoy the occasional excursions into hyper-socialization, i.e. sales trips.
When those excursions are over, we retreat once again into our beloved solitude where we can water the garden, make some tankards, watch the deer, have dinner with neighbors, commune with the chickens, milk a cow, or watch a sunrise.
The best of both worlds.