What must it have been like to go for months without speaking to another human being? Were the trappers of the old west crazy to choose that sort of life, or were they more sane than most? Thoreau wasn't alone at Walden, but he recommends even that much solitude for those who want to decide what matters. I don't necessarily want to shun the company of others, but I wonder what long periods of solitude might bring.

I'm sure you talk to yourself, but then, I do that anyway. I'm betting those who are completely alone sing and dance whenever the mood strikes and cry or howl just as often. To have no one judge your actions, to have no one whose actions serve as example, how strange, lonely, and freeing is that?

I know a few people who absent themselves from society for long periods, and I know they find peace in their solitude, but they always come back. Most of the old trappers did, too, unless they froze or met with a "griz" they couldn't handle. Man is a social creature, but then most creatures are social creatures.

For me, alone time is restorative but always very brief. On "book trips" I speak to lots of people, but often with no sort of intimacy. There are days when interpersonal communication is confined to food orders and hotel registration: essential information and a "thank you." I like that, at least for a while. Months? probably not. What must it be like to hear only your own thoughts for days on end? Surely they get pretty deep with no interruption and no outside interference.

I wonder if Jeremiah Johnson and his ilk figured out the meaning of life. Of course if they did, it was only their version. You and I would have to be alone for months before we figured out our own, and who knows how it would hold up when we came back?

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Comment by Peg Herring on December 24, 2008 at 6:38am
My sister and I joke about going to prison because I'd get lots of time to write and she'd get lots of time to read. I don't want to do that, but I've always found I do my best work when I have long periods of time without interruption.
It sounds like you had a nasty situation that you made the best of. I'm glad it worked for you!
Comment by Dana King on December 24, 2008 at 4:08am
I was laid off from a job shortly after getting divorced in 2001, and spent pretty much all but the two weekends a month my daughter stayed with me virtually alone. Call my parents on the phone once a week, maybe see friends a couple of hours a month, but that was it. That was when I found time to get serious about writing, and what worked for me. Along with that I wrote weekly essays about whatever was on my mind. I figured out a lot of things about myself that have served me well since, so I'd say it was, on balance, a good thing.

Of course, I've always been somewhat of an introvert, so being away from people din;t drive me crazy; I've always been good at keeping busy. A true extrovert probably couldn't do it.

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