The house is completely empty. The drooling of the fish tank, the light breathing of the dogs at my feet the only sounds to keep me company. The gentle clattering of the computer keys. Absolute silence, deeper than at 3 in the morning when the howling of the coyotes shutters my sleep or in the predawn hour when the birds wake each other up with a melodic chattering. If I stop typing and sit completely still I can disappear in the quiet – is this what the world sounded like after the big bang stopped the spewing of matter?

Solitude – the state of being or living alone; seclusion. Such an arid definition that implies a choice where, sometimes, there was none. Solitude does not possess the negative quality of loneliness, in fact, its etymological roots have a sunny disposition. Solitude – from the Latin “solus”, alone, shares the same prefix as “solem”, Latin for sun. In Roman mythology, Sol was the Sun deity.

There is an expansive quality to solitude, either a void waiting to be filled and fraught with expectations of people, sounds or events. Or else an emptiness in which to lose oneself, a stillness full of possibilities. I can’t get enough of solitude, those rare moments where no one is around me, nothing is expected of me – no words or actions or duties. Just what my mind chooses to fill itself with. Time that has the feeling of stretching indefinitely and it’s all the more delicious in the awareness that it will be intruded upon.

A black sanded beach in Costa Rica, just feet from the jungle, in a part of the country removed from tourist destinations. No one to complain about the hot sand that made walking barefoot unpleasant, no one to watch over me while I was swimming, the eerie sensation of being able to disappear unbeknownst to the rest of the world. And the sigh of relief once I reached the village – a few poor houses huddled around a square that doubled up as a soccer field and one lonely convenience store with the only telephone in town. I called home, where nobody was worried about me, to let them know I was fine. That is when it dawned on me that solitude is best enjoyed in the happy knowledge that the phone will soon ring or the dog will bark at some noise I can’t detect and that someone, out there, cares. It’s such a privilege to enjoy a retreat from this world now and then – I bet it was a lot easier centuries ago when having to amuse oneself with one’s thoughts wasn’t so much a choice but a necessity.

Portia snored loudly and turned over, the spell partly broken, her sinuses reminding me that dinner needs to be made, tv will most likely be watched and I might have to wait until next Sunday afternoon for my fix of Solitude.


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