Solitude: The Quality or State of Being Alone

[Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:31b-32)

The Intuition Diaries

Solitude has become something I highly value. As a very active person, and one who isn’t very comfortable with being alone, it is hard for me to believe that I crave solitude. I am not talking about loneliness; I have never liked being lonely. I was lonely at times as a child, so I escaped to my imagination. I was lonely as a single woman in the Air Force, and so surrounded myself with people. I have been lonely as a wife and mother, which may be surprising, but it is a very real ache. In these lonely times, ultimately God draws me close and whispers, “I will never leave nor forsake you.” Solitude tunes me in to the Spirit and refreshes my soul.

While we were in Sister Bay, I was graced with some extended time to pursue solitude. Les was off on a bike ride in search of the famed Door Country dried cherries, so I walked over to the beach to write and sketch in my journal.

 

When the shops opened, I decided to browse. In the past, I might have been reluctant to go by myself or I would have been towing around two children. I have to admit, I didn’t mind being alone.

I embarked on a treasure hunt for unusual souvenirs. First, I went to the Ace Hardware store to see if I could find some insulated mugs for cold drinks. They didn’t have those, but they did have an ice pick. I bought it for Les. (The ice gets stuck together after awhile in the cooler, and I wanted him to be able to get some ice cubes apart to put in the mugs I had hoped to find.) I giggled to myself when I left the hardware store, what would people think of me carrying around a single ice pick? (I recently read a murder mystery, and my mind tucked this away as a kernel of an idea for a murder mystery. Murder by ice pick…hmmm.) I continued on down the block in search of the town library.

At the library, I picked up the free “Door County” tourist guides. On my way there I noticed a sign for a rummage sale, so I walked over to it. Bonus! This was turning out to be a wonderful morning. I found a couple things (a vintage hardcover novel to make into a journal cover). It was a great sale, but I knew better than to bring back too much; space is limited on a boat.

Next I found a collage art gallery/shop, where I bought some ephemera for my own collage attempts. I had to stop in the used bookstore next door. I bought The Big Year, a fictionalized story about birding on CD for us to listen to while we bounced across the lake. I quickly ran into Al Johnson’s (the restaurant with the goats on the grass roof) to get some postcards. My last stop was Secondhand Sue’s, a resale shop. And you are not going to believe it…the first thing I saw was two oversized insulated cups ($2 each) in the window…for our iced drinks! My morning was complete.
 
 

We left Sister Bay for a totally different setting that afternoon. We headed over to Rock Island, which has Wisconsin’s oldest lighthouse on it. We went from the bustle of small town to the solitude of nature. We were able to rent a spot at the State Park dock. It is a first come, first serve operation, so we were fortunate to be the first boat to arrive.

After arriving on the island, we hiked the path to see the lighthouse. From the streets of Sister Bay to the tree shaded path of Rock Island. Both settings lent themselves to different kinds of solitude. In the morning, I had the adventure of finding treasures. In the afternoon, I treasured the adventure of climbing to the top of my first lighthouse.

Pottawatomie Lighthouse

 
 

 

On the way back down the path, Les and I walked in silence, which is very unusual for me. I just wanted to see what it was like to walk silently. Our silence was broken by Les asking a question, and then passing a young family on the path. They were looking for a pileated woodpecker. The woman and I fell into pace together and struck up a conversation. Les walked with the husband and the kids.

The family had been at the lighthouse, and the one son wanted a souvenir pin from the shop. It had a lighthouse on it that lights up. I had bought four to bring home. I decided when we saw the family to give them a pin. The mom was delighted. We ended up visiting with them and showing them our boat, while they waited for the ferry to take them back to Washington Island.

Solitude isn’t always about being alone; it’s sharing your aloneness with one another. I had been concerned about being away from “sisters” on this trip.  My husband and I are great companions, and he graciously listens to me chatter, but it was nice to have a “sister” to visit with that afternoon. (I’m sure it amazes some men how easily women connect. Frankly, it’s a gift that I cherish.) The night before in Sister Bay, this couple pulled up into the slip next to us. Immediately, the wife and I were laughing and poking jokes at our husbands. Each husband had been held hostage by our “self-analysis” talk during the day. Her husband got a kick out of that comment; he knew exactly what I was talking about. The guys were glad to let us chat, while they shared boat stories.

There’s a time for society, and there’s a time for solitude.

5 thoughts on “Solitude: The Quality or State of Being Alone

  1. I really appreciate this, Kel, and it is so serendipitous, because I was just LITERALLY reading a book about silence and solitude, realizing this is what I miss so much for my retreat time in Denver this past summer. Though I was with other journaling women, unlike so many other frenetic Christian women retreats and conferences, much time was built in for personal solitude, silence, and reflection. I thrived spiritually in a way that I haven't in a long time, and realize that this "holy bubble" in which I felt ensconced upon my return home, has gradually given wawy to noise and activity. I need to carve out this alone time with God because He tells us to "come away and to be still and know Him." We know Him in stillness and silence. I also like what you did. We can go on solitary "dates with God" and discover knew things with Him about His world. Thank you for this timely reminder. NTTP (which for me, means No Time To Proof)! =]

  2. Lynn- it has been good to revisit these journals about our summer solitude and repost them here. I have been hearing the same call this late summer almost autumn season… Come away my beloved….I am outside in my secret garden gazebo retreat… I barely want to leave it…embrace His invitation…in due time He will call us back to the frenzy of living in ths world

  3. Oh there it is again, Kel…….that "invitation" theme! Actually, I have been gleaning notes on that today. Hope to do a journaling class on this subject. I am so glad that I accepted God's invitation to a private retreat in Denver….well, w/ women, but also just He and I! That's gazebo time for sure. So glad you are enjoying yours!

  4. Kel … So blessed by this whole piece, and really feel invited in by your writing and sharing here. This line is the one I'll take with me tonight: "I just wanted to see what it was like to walk silently." I need to do that more often. It is good and right to just walk like that for a spell.Thank you, friend.

  5. Jennifer- Thanks for you encouragement… I am taking one step at a time…writing because I am a writer and the God of the Word delights in us and invites us to express ourselves. Dreaming in technicolor words-Kel

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