I’m sitting here on my own tonight; husband and daughter are in Wiltshire. He’s camping out somewhere in the countryside around Avebury and she’s in the comfort of a pub near Stonehenge as a part of a dig that’s a part of her degree.

I love my family and I miss them but I have noticed something quite powerful since I’ve been on my own when I got home from work yesterday: I can think more clearly. I don’t mean the usual humdrum what am I cooking for dinner and I must remember to water the plants kind of thinking. I mean the creative story telling style of thinking I remember being able to enjoy a few years ago.

We live on top of each other by comparison with our previous homes. And since my daughter’s illness, she’s seldom away from the house for more than a couple of hours at most. In the past she was at school or college or out with friends or whatever. When her fiance lived here too, I spent a lot of my time feeling unbearbly crowded out and unable to think or feel anything other than sheer frustration and mundanity. He’s been gone now since February when they broke up and he was here very briefly today to collect some belongings, which made me sad.

This house is a nice house but compared with the places we used to inhabit, it’s pretty small. In the (almost) three years since we moved here we’ve managed to either organise our stuff better or get rid of what we can’t keep, but even so, we still have too much in many ways. It doesn’t make a lot of difference to the actual amount of space we have; whatever we do, the house is still smaller than we were used to. There are still only so many rooms and nowhere to hide from each other. And because my daughter is ill, I’m often the only company she has, so she comes to me for hugs and to talk numerous times a day.

None of this is bad as such. I’m lucky to have a loving child and husband. But the ideas and images that come into my head waiting to be nurtured into stories are at first as fragile and ephermeral as soap bubbles and it only takes speaking or being spoken to and they reach that rainbow nirvana moment and pop. Then even though I may remember their import, I have lost their irridescence and the shining promise of their being. There’s only a wet imprint left that conveys none of the sparkle and excitement of those bubbles.

I also wonder whether the magical beings who sometimes throw those bubbles of beauty our way are put off by us being focussed constantly on washing up, laundry lists and remembering to put the bin out on Monday. I wonder if they prefer to send those bubbles to those who gaze into the middle distance at the trees turning to gold and who sniff the autumn smells of wet leaves, bonfires and fungi and think about inconsequential matters like the mid-ribs of leaves turning to filigree lace as they decay and what the fur on a bat’s tummy feels like. I hardly feel worthy of bubbles these days when I have rushed home to write lesson plans and get housework done so I can collapse into bed and sleep, to start the whole thing all over again in the morning.

As I write with only the light of the monitor, I can see a shadow on the wall behind my desk,  a dreamcatcher, the first I ever made, crisper and more defined than the physical one. We cast shadows with our creations and sometimes the shadows have more power than the creations.

I need to have more of this solitude, even if it means shutting myself away in this room or our bedroom, and gently but firmly shunning the distractions of everyday life so that I can watch in wonder as those pearlescent bubbles float by and sometimes lodge deep in my unconscious. I need to let my unconscious have time and space to go and play, to dabble in the mud and sail paper boats on ponds.

Then and only then will the stories begin to flow again.


2 thoughts on “Solitude

  1. Honestly, this has brought tears to my eyes. I’m not so good at writing to tell you how deep my understanding of the need for solitude is. Reading this post, I feel so familiar with what you’ve written, every little cell of my being has experienced it thousands of times. I have often felt torn between my love for my partner and my loved ones and the desire to be on my own. I have felt guilty and bad and uncaring, which is not true, of course, because I love them dearly. But they don’t seem to understand or have any such needs. They get offended. That’s why, whenever I happen to be all alone at home, I fall into a trans.

    What a beautiful, vivid, ingenious and incredibly expressive metaphor you’ve come up with to describe those brief sparkling moments which disappear at the slightest distraction! I’ll write it down in my notebook of quotations. I become inspired by beautiful words.

    • Thank you!
      I’m lucky in many way because my husband does understand what I am like because it’s something he shares. My duaghter too. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
      I spent about an hour in the garden just now, performing a ceremony to honour the equinox and odd things occurred. It felt entirely right to do it; in the past i have had concerns that the children next door will start calling to me from an upstairs window (as they did when we buried our cat Clara ) and disturb me but nothing happened like that. I also used to worry what people might think I am doing, having been accused of witchcraft in the past (yes, in England, and at the very end of the 20th century, truly!)
      I feel like sleeping now.

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