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3:25 p.m. - September 09, 2008
On solitude
Absolute solitude save the fishermen in the small boat I encountered at the far end of the lake on my next to last day, beyond the sandy beach I kayaked to every afternoon. Do you know this kind of solitude? It is savage and oppressive, overwhelming and frightening, it is being the last man alive after the apocalypse, it is waking up in a forest after sleeping a hundred years and finding every one you know, everything you remembered, is gone and turned to dust. Solitude is not romantic or light-hearted; no, true solitude is unyielding and awesome in its ferocity as it compels you to pay attention, to fixate on it, to hear and see all those things you push down day after day that rear up unleashed and powerful when there is absolutely nothing around you other than yourself.

I was scared at night, huddled in my tiny tent, yet I never once turned on a flashlight. I was creeped out in the middle of the day when a branch would break - not a crisp clean swift break, but a slow, drawn out, almost methodical break - behind me in the forest yet nothing was there when I turned my head. I swam by day in clear water but not by night - I blame the cold but really, it's because I couldn't stop imagining cold hands in the dark water grabbing my ankles. I read in a kayak that went wherever the current and wind decided, or on a tiny sandy beach across the lake and down past the beavers, or on the grassy knoll in the sun at the highest point on my tiny island, or atop bleached tree trunks. I read poetry aloud only the first day because even poetry disrupts the profound silence, and I only wanted to hear the whirr-woosh, whirr-wooshof the bald eagles or the lap of waves, or the wind. I walked through the woods and kayaked as far as my interest would take me and sat on large rocks until my buttocks ached yet I'd sit for longer just to watch the sun on the water until my eyes, my ears, just couldn't take any more and I'd get up.

I thought and thought. I cried. I yelled and screamed like I said I would. I hurt myself. I sunburned quickly. I laughed. I looked at my naked body in the water or under the sky. I picked a spot for the final coda and sat there all day. And in the end I got up.

I had thought I wouldn't.

I have been smiling much more ever since, a calm smile, one not touched with regret or the slightest bit of sadness. Just my chubby cheeks and my dimples. I am proud of myself. I thought about difficult things, shameful things, the hidden things behind my facade, and one by one I let them float behind me as I paddled on in a lake in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness.

There is work to be done ahead. I am excited, not weighed down. I am not magically cured or blissfully ignoring reality but for the first time in a very long time I see the edges of my troubles and worries and can grasp them, manage them, work with them, hold them in my palm and crush them. I am no longer overwhelmed. Perspective. That's what it is.

That is why I got up.

A picture of solitude, taken my second or third night. The moon on water.


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