Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

Facebook Profile Updates

Three days now, I’ve been deactivated on the most popular social media website since sliced bread.  I document my father’s music in the hours I might have wasted on early mornings, while drinking my coffee.  I listen to Chris de Burgh music on Youtube as background, while reading Al Purdy poetry.  His words make me weep at times.  I would have posted that on Facebook.

I imagine filling in that small space…I don’t even remember what the prompt was?  Say something about yourself…or what you are doing…what came to be known as a status update.

I would probably post a link to this post.  As a way of weening myself from the process, I thought to update my status here…what would I say?

July 5, 2016  A dark cloud fell upon me when, from no where, a friend invited me to go chase dark clouds.  He parked his car across the street and magically appeared when I needed a friend.

July 6, 2016 My hair was dirty, so I didn’t join my girlfriends for a night of listening to live music.  I didn’t paint at Rumble House, again.  I read Al Purdy poetry and used a sock as a place-saver.

July 7, 2016 I feel sad that I’m seeing the changes in the pond, all on my own, and that no one else sees exactly what I see.  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow are trying to raise another family in the neighbour’s vent.  I relent and put seed in the feeder that I had pulled out of service because of the growing population of voles.  But, now, with the children’s incessant cry for sustenance, I give in.

July 10, 2016 What does it mean that I have 13 hits on my blog from Macau SAR China, today?  Some times these connections, through writing, just surprise me.

Yesterday’s photographs…documentation of train graffiti, imagining that the artist would want to know where his art had traveled.

I like that the red-winged black bird made it into this shot…

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It’s been wonderful to see the great Cormorants coming through.  They are closer to the river…this, a lone female.

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Mama Savannah Sparrow watching out for her young sprout…IMG_9226

Youngster…sitting a short distance from Mom…about half her size.

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My partner in crime.IMG_9208

A herd of 20 geese, four adults and the rest, progeny, slip into the water as Max and I tippy toe through the goose poo.IMG_9204