Monday, August 06, 2007
On Solitude
Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self. - May Sarton

This weekend I made my annual vacation plans. I am going back to the Grand Canyon, a place of such beauty and silence it is overwhelming.

There is something special about the Grand Canyon. It is in both the synthetic and the natural of the place that makes me go back year after year. When I am there, I need nothing. I am remember the joy of simplicity and yet I have what I consider abundance.

I stay at a the cabins because they are comfortable and separate from the hotels and the few other visitors there for the winter. It also feels more like solitude than being in the Lodge which, though beautiful and also simple, is not the same, almost cloistered, experience.

The cabins host a bed, an armchair, a desk with a writing lamp and chair, a wardrobe and a full bathroom. There are maybe two paintings of the Canyon on the walls. There is a baseboard heating unit. That is all. They are all designed in the simple Arts and Crafts style.

They are neither ascetic nor luxurious.

There are natural gas powered buses that circle the park throughout the day starting before sunrise and ending at night. Once I park my car, there is no reason to move it as long as I am in the park.

At sunrise people gather with hot cups of coffee and cameras throughout the park to watch the sun rise. It is my favorite time of the day. There is no loud talking, only the click of a few remaining 35 mm cameras.

When I visit the Canyon, I will hike out onto a solitary rock where the average tourist does not dare trek. If one is given to vertigo, the paths I take are distressing at best and dangerous at worst.

I travel with my backpack loaded down: a journal, a book, knitting, camera, water and snacks. If it is not terribly windy or snowing, I can sit on the rock for hours, my bare feet dangling over the canyon walls, watching the sun make patterns on various features of the canyon, seeing trees in new ways, watching rock formations that seem created.

When I eat breakfast, I eat alone in the little hotel restaurant. When I am in the Canyon, it is the only time I don't mind eating alone in public. I take my journal and note the other visitors. The two couples together who are traveling across the country, the German tourists preparing for the hike into the canyon for the night, the family with children who will only remember the canyon as somewhere their parents dragged them and not much else.

I'll usually make lunch from provisions in the little market that supplies everything from parkas to marshmallows to decent produce. For dinner, it is so black ink dark in the canyon that I will pick up dinner from the hotel and take it back to my room before I cannot see as I am almost completely night blind and it becomes fairly dangerous.

It is a 7 hour drive to get to my retreat where there is no cell phone access, no internet access. It feels good to be away from communication for 5 days. It feels good to talk little and be observant.

I saw my first snowflakes and completed my only solo 11 mile hike at the Grand Canyon (despite passing one couple who looked pretty athletic and used to this type of thing being fairly concerned for my safety).

On one trip to the Canyon, I nearly returned with a shaved head but the barbershop in the nearest town had closed. I don't think that will happen this year, however, I have found that returning home from these little monastic adventures, I am more focused. I breathe more deeply and appreciate simplicity.

I appreciate the serenity, being responsible to no one but myself, speaking only to order a meal and say thank you to the bus drivers.

By the way, if you are thinking of going to the Canyon and need resources or have questions, don't hesitate to email me.

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Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

That sounds LOVELY.

There are cabins like the ones you describe up near Big Sur, but without the quiet and solitude. I think I like yours better.

Blogger Maureen said...

That sounds absolutely beautiful. Just like my favourite thing to do is to sit on a beach on the West Coast of Scotland and watch the sunset and then the sunrise - not too many hours between them if you pick a good day in June!

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