Several years ago, I was walking along the seashore with Sonny the old husky when the most important reoccurring question of my life decided to ask itself again: why do I crave being alone with my dog on the beach?
Now that my dog is dead, going on almost two years, and I have fought with all my might to ward off the darkest, unconstitutional corners of American isolation, what is it about being alone, not loneliness, but solitude that I still crave? According to some experts, I am sick, deeply sick, for desiring solitude and believing that on occasion my best friends come from nature, not humanity.
Many times, I have felt that if I could satisfactorily answer the question about my craving, it might bring to light something I probably should know about myself. I might also share the answer in hope that it encourages more people to at least attempt cultivating moments of quiet solitude in their lives. There is so much noise and social media groupthink in American culture that the simple act of being alone—temporarily or for long a duration—can serve as an antidote. Sometimes by not talking with other people, you begin listening.
I do not typically eschew human encounters. Sometimes they cannot be avoided. Over the years, I’ve had many random wonderful and mysterious interactions with people on Oregon’s beaches. They’ve taught me a thing or two and I’ve written many words on the topic.
But the perfect crystalline moments have always occurred when I don’t encounter a single human or utter a single word. It was just me, the husky, now Bonnie and Clyde, the ocean, the river, the rain, the rolling of my mind in concert with the waves, the meandering of my mind in flow with the current, the inevitable act of simultaneously emptying my mind and filling it up with creativity. I write millions of words to better humanity and enact millions of scenarios to become a better human being while I am alone at the beach or on the river with Bonnie and Clyde.
I am not sick as a result. On the contrary, I am well, fit in body, mind and spirit and getting stronger every day.
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