Mel’s retreat to the Porches set my mind to thinking of the peace one gets all too infrequently. I love alone time. I really do, and I miss it. At this point in my life it gives me the rare opportunity to think and write, but I stay very mentally active when alone. I am an only child so I had plenty of opportunity for solitude growing up. However, at that time I hated solitude. I wanted a brother to play ball with or at worst a sister, somebody, but I had to settle for the dozens of kids on my street to play with. The same theme ran through High School and my first job. I enjoyed being with people maybe too much.
When working at a local restaurant in my teens I would drive or ride my bike across town and just hang out with my work friends. It got me some extra money because if there was a rush of customers they would draft me for an hour or two. It also got me closer to the manager, George, who kept giving me more duties outside cooking and waiting on tables. He had me do inventory, meals tax calculations and forms, and his bookkeeping. After another year or two he made me his Assistant Manager. But that started because I wanted to be with people.
In my last two years of college, while living in the Washington, DC area with a roommate for the first time I realized that all that solitude I grew up with was something I craved, I just did not realize it at the time. I found that I enjoyed when my roommate, Tom, was gone. He was my best friend so it was not that I did not want him there at all, it was just that I enjoyed my alone time.
It was while living in DC that I made my first trip to the Shenandoah National Park. I was instantly in love with the area. The scenery was beautiful, the people around were mellow as if intoxicated by the beauty of the area. I was in this same tipsy state as I went on hikes on or near the Appalachian Trail. When I got home from DC and back to classes I found that I studied better when I cloistered myself in my room at home. It sounds funny now, but I lived at home during college because I could not afford the $600 room and board. I achieved all A’s from the middle of my Junior year to graduation. Ahhh….I had discovered a formula for success…Solitude.
The following year, after graduating, Tom and I went to the Shenandoah for vacation for 10 days. We had several adventures while hiking but I fell more deeply for the beauty of the panorama I looked out on all day. (Some adventures I cannot remember, after discovering the moonshine they served at the restaurant.) Over the next several years in the 1980’s I went to the Shenandoah every year for my own solitary vacation. In the days prior to laptop PC’s I did practically nothing while I was there, but I loved it. It was Blissful Solitude. I remember writing letters to people and stories describing the beauty of the place, heartfelt letters to my parents but mostly it was a week of hiking and soaking in the beauty.
When I got married I was getting my MBA. We bought a house and I set aside a spare bedroom for study and study only so I could re-do the cloister concept, for and came out with much better grades than during my undergraduate days. Solitude did the trick again. Then the 3 children came in rapid succession, my solitude days were gone. I visited the Shenandoah with my children in 2006, but it was instructional not relaxing. We even saw wildlife I had never seen when I was there including a bear cub up close and personal. My wife does not like nature and stayed home. Her idea of “roughing it” is a mall without a roof.
My children are all 16 or older now and are out of the house frequently doing teen-age stuff, whatever that includes these days, so by default I have less to deal with and more time to do it.
My teaching gives me more time that a full-time job affords me too. I am able to whip off ramblings like this, which make me day-dream of times when I was much younger and had big dreams of material acquisition and great accomplishments. Among those day-dreams is a return to the Shenandoah on a regular basis so I can leave civilization in my rear-view mirror for a week or two to recharge, to the Blissful Solitude.