“Ah! I need solitude. I have come forth to this hill at sunset to see the forms of the mountains in the horizon…”
-Henry David Thoreau
I found myself sitting in my garage today, thinking. Even though thinking might be a bit too generous, It was more like sitting and staring at boxes of folded clothes, Christmas decorations, and yard equipment, with the above quote spinning through my head again and again like a broken toy. It’s not that I particularly love spending time in my garage (it’s ok, a little cluttered maybe), and it’s not that I was trying to organize (although I really do need a lot of organizing at some point.) It was more that honestly, it was quiet. And quiet was what I needed.
Yes, my garage was the only place in my house where it was quiet. And I wanted quiet. But not just that. I needed time to sit alone. With no phone. With no TV. With no beeping or flashing of technology. With my thoughts, and very little to distract me from them, chaotic as they are sometimes. And so I sat there, until finally I realized that my family was going to start to wonder where I was. And so I went back inside, and the noise hit me like a sledgehammer. And I found myself, again, yearning for quiet.
Lately I feel like my life is consumed by technology. My thoughts, my vision, hearing, my whole being revolves around and is inundated by electronic things and the requirements to work and communicate on them. They are a huge blessing, these amazing testaments to human ingenuity, but they are also a constant barrier to my thoughts, a distraction and oftentimes a source of anxiety. A few years ago I listened to a really interesting podcast on life in the Roman Empire. The professor giving the lecture said that if we were to be magically teleported back to that time, one of the most striking things to us living in the 21st century would have been the silence. It would have been so incredibly silent by our standards. Our lives now are filled with noise, noise everywhere. Even when we are alone, there is still noise. I can’t imagine a world without the sound of cars, and horns, and phones, and televisions blaring.
I don’t want to be lonely. That’s not what I want, that’s not what anyone wants. But I don’t think that to be alone, or to be in a state of solitude is to be lonely. Thoreau reflects on this a lot in his work, this idea of solitude nurturing introspection and the power of nature to feed our souls and our thoughts. I can feel the power of a spring day, the incredible energy of the breeze, of the sun, of being outside and being surrounded by things that are part of this Earth. I yearn for that lately, and I seek it, like a wanderer in the desert seeks water. I find that as time passes, the harder I look for this.
I think as human beings we have a need for this time. I know that most of us (myself included), often feel too busy or bored to carve time out to be alone with our thoughts. It’s not easy, not with a huge to do list and a million people and things clamoring for our attention. But I firmly believe taking this time for ourselves is something that we should do. It’s an act of care for ourselves, and for those people in our lives who we care about. The deep dive into your thoughts can help sort out so many problems and concerns, gently unraveling the tightly knotted worries plaguing an overstimulated mind. I’ve been trying to build in time daily for meditation, and for quiet reflection. It’s a struggle, I won’t lie. But it’s so healing and so necessary, that I strive to make it work. For writers I believe this quiet time is really vital, for so many different reasons. Allowing those quieter thoughts the chance to rise to the surface is an opportunity to gain insights into not only the world around you, but into your own mind and your own soul. I know that for me it’s something that has grown increasingly important.
How do you find time to recharge and reflect? Wishing you a good weekend and the chance to do something you enjoy.