Saturday, September 10, 2011


By Kerry Schafer


It's a beautiful word. Musical. Like wind in the tree tops or the lapping of water against the shore. It makes me think of full moon on snow, early morning mist on a lake, a sky blazing with stars. I can't imagine solitude in the middle of a city somewhere, but I know that's just me. I could be, and have been, alone in a city. Even happily so, at times, but it wasn't solitude - not with all the bustle and scurry and flow right outside the window.

As I write this, everybody else in the house still sleeps. Outside my writing window the trees are black against a sky just shaded with rose at the horizon. They've only just advanced from silhouette to three dimensional. Next step - color will emerge and they will shift from black to green and brown as the light grows.

If people were up and talking, chances are good I wouldn't notice. I'd either be annoyed at the interruption of my rare and precious moments of alone time, or sucked into interaction and focused on conversation and the give and take of morning rituals with the family.

One of the things I love about my job is the exchange of a day or two off during the week for the nights and weekends on call. Especially in the winter, when the kids are in school and the Viking is at work. A day at home in my empty house is the ultimate luxury for me. The rest of the time, I take what I can get.

I usually get up at 5. I wouldn't have to. I could easily get up at 6:30 and be at work on time. I began this habit years ago when the kids were young. Not because I'm a morning person - I'm not - but because it was the only time I could count on to be alone. If I can get an hour alone in the morning to do whatever - journal, write, or just hang out on Twitter - I am a much more pleasant human being for the rest of the day. Of course, over the course of years what has happened is that waking this early has become a habit, and is often no longer effective. The Viking is not only an early riser, but one of those annoying morning people. As in, when he gets up he engages in conversation and turns on lights and stuff. And the kids every now and then get it into their teenage brains that they should be up at 5;30 for one reason or another. The fact that I tend to grunt at them all and lock myself away behind a closed door if possible doesn't seem to register.

When I can't be alone I do the best I can. Long walks on the property with the dog for company. Headphones. When the house is full my visits to the bathroom tend to be long, drawn out events. Hey - it's a locked door, and people tend to have the decency to leave you alone in there. I'm smart enough to always have a book at hand, so it's a mini escape that's always available. Actually, it's not always available. Lots of teenage boys in this house. One bathroom. But hey, I take what I can get.

One of the ironies of my life is that the luxury of loving to be alone has everything to do with knowing there are people there when I want them. I think it would be a very different story if the Viking wasn't coming home at the end of the day or at least for the weekend. If there were no teenagers to talk to. No family who loves me for what I am out there somewhere. No long suffering friends to put up with my social weirdness and still willing to talk to me after months of not communicating. In order to be a pleasure, at least for me, the alone time needs to be voluntary and not enforced.

As I've been writing this the sky has warmed to gold. I can see the gravel of the driveway, the low bushes between the trees are faintly green. Soon the Viking will be awake and I'll fix his coffee. It's been a pleasure, but the companionship will be lovely too.


  1. Kerry,

    I too know exactly what you mean. Isn't it funny, how we can long for solitude one moment, and then find ourselves missing the hustle and bustle the next, when the solitude has proven a little too quiet for a moment?

    These days, most of my life is the solitude that you've described above. I only wish I could be more productive with it -- as you say, it's become routine now, and I don't make near as much use of it as I should. But then, there's a whole other post on procrastination in there, which is of course another ball game altogether ... :)

  2. Procrastination is a whole series of posts, I think. But for another day, of course. : )

  3. You hit the nail on the head with "voluntary." While I go crazy without my alone time, I'm sure I'd go equally crazy without the occasional infusion of family craziness. It's all about the balance, I guess.

  4. Linda - there is that balance word again, lol. It just keeps coming up.

  5. A beautiful description of the sunrise. I promise I only laughed a wee bit over hiding in the potty for some alone time.

  6. Ah, yes...a long, hot bath can definitely be a source of solitude. And it's not hiding. ;-)

  7. Laura - um, right. Baths. That's what I do in there for half an hour at a time. KAK apparently knows me better, lol.

  8. I have predictable alone time when we're in town--kids gone, and I work at home. When we go on vacation, though, it's all on me. We have guests! There is no bathtub! There is a lake, though, and suddenly I get my exercise every single day with an "exercise swim" out deeper than (it used to be) the kids could touch bottom. "Where's Mom?" "On her exercise swim." Can we follow you in boats? No, you cannot. I also stay up late to get some alone time, but it's getting so I can't do that every night.

  9. I love the exercise swim - a creative approach to the problem. Staying up late also backfires as the kids get older. And stay up later.

  10. Late to comment, & sorry about that, who knows you may never even see this now... Yes - solitude, Yes voluntary is key aspect for me as well.

    I catch myself frequently thinking in terms, while alone, of how I would show something, share something, with an absent friend or family member. An odd feel to that sometimes, when I catch myself at it. Ever have that?