Sunday, March 9, 2014

Suited for Solitude

The year was 1983 and I was driving a friend’s car back to Iowa. I was somewhere in Nevada near Elko or Stateline. This was 35 years ago so you know things were a lot different and a lot less developed. I was driving all by myself. I liked it that way. I had my thoughts to myself and no one to tell me what radio station to listen to, where to stop or what to do. I didn’t mind being alone. I had the radio and that was enough. As long as I was progressing in a general eastward direction I was fine. I could gaze out at the scenery and think about whatever popped into my head. In the car streaming along at 65 miles per hour I felt the solace of the open spaces in the miles passing through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and beyond.
In those days gas station attendants still pumped your gas in out of the way places. At a gas station near Stateline I started up a conversation with the attendant. As I gazed out to the horizon with nothing but sagebrush and salt flat in sight I said to him aren’t you lonely out here? He said no I don’t need so many friends. That made me think what was my truth in the metropolitan area of San Francisco? I thought he’s right. I don’t have all that many friends either and I don’t need many. I could number my good ones on one hand. The only difference between the wide open spaces and San Francisco was that if I cared I would have more choice in the big city. But I didn’t care.
I’ve always been a loner. Not lonely. I like my own company and can spend hours all by myself without going freaky. Now that I have been living here at Grindstone where it’s just me and Marty for days on end I find that when I go back to the metropolitan area I feel claustrophobic and beleaguered by all the noise, congestion and traffic. Out here we take the quiet for granted until we experience the hub-bub of the city.  Out here is not a place for people who feel uneasy without lots of people around. I have a dear friend who grew up in New York City. When she heard about my new home she said aren’t you scared of being alone out there. Don’t you feel unsafe by being isolated from people? I thought for a minute and said actually I feel more safe because there’s a lot less people to get up to shenanigans like they do in the city.
Once we were in Hawaii getting ready to take out rental car out to our vacation home on the other side of the island. A man at the counter told us be careful they don’t have street lights out there. We looked at each other perplexed as in yeah and how is that a problem but we didn’t say it out loud. We knew he was from a city where there were street lights everywhere and it didn’t get dark, really dark, at night. For years I lived in the city and looked up at night to see the Milky Way and couldn’t see it. I had seen it every night as a child where we lived in the small town in Iowa. Now it was gone. Out here it’s back and in full force. Every star is visible and I love the new moon nights when they are crystal clear with no moon light to impede the viewing. You got to be comfortable in the dark out here.
You’ve also got to feel comfortable with hardly ever seeing other people. You’ve got to have a partner or spouse that you really get along with if you’re going to make it out here. That person is going to be your only human contact for days at a time and if you can’t talk or be easy with that person you’re going to have a problem. Out here the meaning of teamwork takes on even greater significance so work well with your partner and you’ll never lack for anything the city offers. It’s a lovely life and I’m suited for it.


  1. Renee, I miss the stars. I saw them every night as a child and especially loved summers and sleeping outside where we would gaze for hours. it's easy to lose nature in metropolis. T hat's one of the reasons I love plein-air painting.

    1. We would go out to the golf course in our little town and lie back on a blanket and count the shooting stars that flew by. That is a lovely memory you have. Nature is there in the metropolis. It's just harder to find. You have to look real deep. Keep up the plein air!