Where do you go when you need to be alone? What do you do there? Do you like lots of sound keeping you company, or do you prefer some sort of quiet? Have you ever shared your private place with someone? Have you ever regretted that? If you have no alone place do you want one? How could you go about finding one? Even if you live in the city, if you think hard, there’s somewhere you can go to be completely alone. Where is that place?
The first time I heard “Up on the Roof” by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, performed, of course, by the great JT, I didn’t really get it. I was a kid from the country, so why on earth would you climb a house when there are plenty of trees to climb and old fallen logs to perch on (conveniently located over small ponds full of tadpoles) and old granite remnants pushed south and left when the icebergs melted thousands of years ago.
There were lots of places for me to go when I wanted to be alone. In bad weather, I could hide in the chicken coop or in the stairwell near the cold cellar or even in the stall with my pony or the sheep. In good weather I was always perched in an apple or cherry tree, or sometimes sprawled on the back of my pony while he was grazing, shielding my eyes as I read a book with my hair splayed over his hindquarters, completely unconcerned that if something startled him, I’d be thrown.
It wasn’t until much later that I understood the beauty of a place of my own in the middle of everything and everyone. There have been times, when I shared my home with too many people and privacy was hard to come by, that my car was my alone place (this was before gasoline pushed four dollars a gallon). Often, a warm bath and a book are my alone place. My garden sometimes serves, as does my home office. When I’m in the city, working, I try to find a place with something green, where I can walk or even sit in the shade alone, even if only briefly.
And here’s a secret no one tells you. Sometimes, in very big crowds, you can find the peacefulness of being alone as well. I like going to the River Market on farmers market day for that. The crowd of people pushing by me doesn’t see me, and I get to drink in all the sights and sounds while remaining essentially invisible. It’s a different sort of aloneness, but one I really treasure at times.
Just before my mother died back in 1999, my husband and I were in Las Cruces, NM. OneNew Mexico State University, Zuhl Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
night after leaving the hospital, we drove east of town where a small mountain (“A” Mountain) blocked the city lights from view. This had been one of my favorite alone times when I was an undergraduate at New Mexico State. After we got about a mile from the city, I instructed him to pull over, turn off the car lights, and close his eyes and count to one hundred.
When he opened his eyes, he got to see for the first time the billions of stars that crowd the desert sky at night, with no moisture and no lights to compete. Photography is no substitute (there’s a reason “A” mountain has an observatory on it). I’ve never regretted sharing that alone space with him.