…camping out for words

Teatime on the campsite

Loneliness is solitude with a problem
from Bluets, by Maggie Nelson

59.
Your desire for solitude began at an early age, reading books in your bedroom with the door firmly closed, and then writing down your own stories.  You are not sure if your writing grew from your solitude, or your solitude grew from your writing, but either way the two belong together, like a warm rug belongs to cat.

You have rarely felt loneliness, but now, in a time of pandemic and isolation, you find at any time of day a sense of longing can blanket you without warning, and you’re unable to settle or concentrate on any kind of work, staring out the window or lying on the sofa staring at the ceiling, your mind reach out into nothingness. 

Every time you think of writing you feel this nothingness like a gaping hole, and you don’t know where the words will come from when you’ve created no new thoughts, no new feelings, no new experiences.

But then, finally, the world begins to turn again and you camp out in a wooded valley with friends.  You wake to riotous birdsong as dawn breaks.  You cook stews and curries and crumbles for each other and eat as a tribe.  You go for long rambles through the verdant woods and across fields and down cow-lined lanes.  You play Backgammon and Scrabble and talk and laugh, and in the evening you light the campfire and you sit in the glow of the flames marveling at the stories of each other’s lives, nourished by the life blood of shared understanding.

When you return home you unpack and wash your grassy clothes, take a long bath and fall into bed early.  The next morning you return to your usual routine, making breakfast and coffee, checking emails, browsing the news feed.  But you also feel the swell of plenty inside you.  Your mind is alive with the memories of the past few days, the conversations, the ideas expressed and debated.  Only now do you realise how depleted you have been, how loneliness has sapped your spirit.  This recognition infuses your unfolding mind and cascades into the now and the future and you sit down to write, the words spilling over themselves to the phantom accompaniment of morning birdsong and the glow of the crackling fire.

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