Still at Los Parronales, working at learning the craft of good writing. Our poet/writer/ mentors are fine-tuning our listening, observing and thinking skills, pushing us to go deeper, make connections and discoveries, shine our light on new truths. Poets’ lines shimmer suspended in the air waiting for us to absorb their brilliance and simplicity.
Reading matter is scattered about our large work table. The title of an article on the table calls my attention: Why do we have such a problem with being alone? A photograph shows the author, Sara Maitland, standing alone on a high Scottish moor gazing into the distance. For the past 20 years, she has lived alone in an isolated place. She examines what she calls ‘a serious cultural problem’ – our attitude towards solitude and common assumptions that it is: self-indulgent, escapist, antisocial and evades social responsibility.
I am relieved to discover someone who questions society’s judgments on being alone, particularly that it is antisocial. When I shrink back in my chair and tune out at an especially noisy event, I worry I’m being a lone wolf. That’s what a teacher colleague called me once years ago. It felt like a black mark on my forehead, a label I believed I didn’t deserve. Growing up an only child, I was used to solitude and silences. Sometimes that also meant lonely, but I don´t see ‘alone’ as necessarily equivalent to ‘lonely’. Perhaps I spend more time alone than some, but I also seek out company. I prefer going to a movie or concert accompanied, but I’m not afraid to go alone.
Did my being an only child prepare me for my sons leaving home or for being a writer? I spend many hours alone in my study at the computer though I don’t feel lonely. My husband is at work in his upstairs office; a chat message pops up from my New Yorker son; Cristián, our mailman comes by; I stop for a snack in the kitchen and remember to take a plum out to our tortoise, Speedy.
Here at the workshop I have a room of my own. Sitting at my desk, I hear the footsteps of others and the wind in the eucalyptus and cottonwood trees. Delicious solitude, but I am not alone.