The wind picks up, rifling the pages of my journal with a sharp, snapping sound.
The waves are inching closer, threatening to flood my hideaway beneath a dock. I hear birds, distant voices, but I am very much alone in this moment.
I drink in the delicious breeze on my skin—the rare moment of true quiet—and I smile. It is a smile no one will see, and all the more precious for being mine alone.
There is something exquisite about this solitude.
Free of the obligation to smile at, respond to, or engage with presences outside of myself, I turn these actions inward. I smile to smile, I answer my own voice, and I hug my own legs.
It is a particular shade of joy that I feel—not the vibrant, trembling joy of love, nor the bright and shiny joy of adventure (though both are satisfying in their own way), but rather the softer, subtler, self-effacing hue that nestles deep within my own core, always.
When I take the time to seek solitude, I remember that joy is there. The wind and water dissolve the tenuous strands of forgetting coiled around it.
Solitude. Why do I give myself this simple gift so seldomly?
No matter how much my relationships with others may nourish me, they can never give me what their absence bestows:
Empty space in which to grow. Deep quiet in which to hear my own voice. A precious moment of “nothing-else-ness” wherein I may truly understand the “something” that I alone inhabit.
I still exist in solitude—not really in “empty” space, for the birds sun wind and water are presences deeply felt—but solitude nonetheless. (You, too, exist in solitude.)
I exist, and I am expansive, stunningly alive and humming with words and music. To recognize that existence, outside of its relationship to other human existences is powerful indeed.
How profound a teacher this solitude proves itself each time I sit in its classroom. Ten minutes of “nothing-else” seems to offer more inspiration than hours of “something.”
In solitude, I realize, I exist in my entirety, and so do you.
Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Courtesy of Author