"Solitude, too, can be a way to gain perspective and find inner peace". Rona March, NPCA.ORG
Henry David Thoreau was known for Walden Pond and seeking solitude... He also visited the 'barred and bended arm' (Cape Cod) many times and would walk a 28 mile stretch from Eastham Beach to Provincetown, spending the night along the way in various places such as the Highland light house or the welcoming house of an oysterman. The seashore to Thoreau was a 'wild and rank place, and there is no flattery in it' yet ....'the seashore is a most advantageous point from which to contemplate the world' ...So we can assume, he came for solitude.
Years back....and for 10....I used to work for the National Park Service as a Ranger stationed in various spots such as Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Whitman Mission National Historic Site; all back in the great state of Washington. The above picture shows a 'very much younger' me, somewhat goofing off in my stance. Yet, that was me. During these 10 years I grew even more so, to appreciate nature.
You see now, I was always 'into nature' and even as a child I spent most days if not all it seems, outside in the hills and fields behind our home. Horses of the 'wild kind' would run free and would escape my eyes by being stealthily hidden behind over-run blackberry bushes, seemingly a mile high and dense enough to ward off even a rabbit who might dare to enter. I would still attempt to sneak up on them but they would scatter. Many years in youth spent with just me, or my brothers... and the wind, the wide open sky and smell of mustard weed mixed with horse manure. In retrospect, this was surely the beginning of solitude, for me. The side- image was when I was 11 and learning how to handle a shotgun.
But it was my years in the National Park Service (NPS) where as a young adult, I did grow up to not just exist in nature, but almost become 'part of nature' as my mind shifted to what can be found within this kingdom. It was in the mid 80's that my love for birds grew. I would listen to my friend Jack (short for John, go figure!), talk about birds and migration and we would go out in the field and take our binoculars and scan the land; back-country which was deeply settled in the Blue Mountains of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
Later on, as my girls were young, I would take long adventures with them into the Blue Mountains or Wallowa Mountains, but I have to admit, solitude wasn't quite in the cards. I tried....but you know how life is with kids that young and packing and prodding them around goat trails and shifting land. The mountains here in spots are an odd combination of soil and shale, make each step a challenge against slanted hills.
Then as they aged a bit .... we would go off many more times such as the image below, ... in the Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon. This time more quietness except when the pre-teen got hungry.
Or....just forget walking and immerse yourself in a crisp stream and learn a skill.....' that of how to skip a rock'. Skipping rocks is a time-honored tradition that should be honed by the time one comes of age. While not total solitude, the satisfaction of (a) seeking that perfectly-sided flat stone and then (b) successfully skipping it 'upstream' 5 to 6 to 7 or more times; well, you did yourself proud that day.
Eventually, while still working for the NPS, I would venture on my own....this time I found a rock to lie on in Mt Rainier National Park. I loved this rock and would return to it often. Mt Rainier can get a bit chilly, even in the summer and to find 'nature' so flat, so ....'sunny' , was too much of a lure. I can recall lying like I was, gazing upwards at the crystal dark blue sky, and just thinking of peace. Hands out, my body plastered against the rock where I could feel every protrusion nestling into my skin. I had clothes on, this time.....I use to do this buck-naked on this very rock; my rock, my peace, my solitude.
As my girls grew and found their life outside of the 'home'... I began to travel more in the world and collect my thoughts, high in the Andes....away from most folks as the image below shows. I would grab my camera and depart for the day, only looking back when I hit a ravine that cleared itself from the trees. A mist would always fall, my reading glasses always wet. I crept to each turn, and with each turn in a path, it would be like Christmas as a kid, not knowing what I would find. A cock-of-the-rock ? ...startled and flown, or a slithering snake caught open in the sun?
Solitude found me and since, has never left.... I find myself, sometimes....around people to be more awkward as I have to 'talk'....I have to say something to be human. I would sooner be out in the forests and trees or better yet, wide open land where one can view miles. I would sooner be grabbing sights of color, dispersed in the trees or to look down and find the same among leaves and dirt. I remember one time where I spent an entire day looking at leaf cutting ants make their way across acres of land. Sun up, sun down...just myself and the ants. Solitude and that of appreciation of, allows one to be found in another world, ....a dimension of modern society long forgotten by technology. Then that time, oh that precious week on a deserted Island in the Pacific where each night I would venture to the shore line to watch the orange cast glow of the sun and when darkness welcomed my hours, I would watch natures own headlights as the luminosity of algae playing in the crashing of the waves, would lend itself to a visual party, of just me. Solitude, pure none-the-less. Or my time spent roaming areas of the Australian outback ....walking...listening in fact to the dust settle upon my hat as the wind would chase it to me. I yet managed to shoot a simple Fairy Wren, elongated such as it is, against the wire with nothing to show in the background except for more of the same wide expanse of land. That my friends is the epitome of solitude. Seek it out, search for the land that matches your soul within the time you have on this earth. Life is too short to be spent strictly with humanity.
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