Solitude is relative

A beautiful weekend, so I spent most of it on my porch in the sun reading. I came home on Thursday after work hoping my book order had arrived and found five (of the 11 I ordered) waiting for me. Delicious. 

Over the weekend I read May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude and The House By The Sea, both focusing on her life alone but in two different homes. I knew nothing of Sarton and haven’t read her poems or novels, but I did enjoy these two of her journals very much. I don’t feel especially drawn to her as a person although I enjoyed her writing and the insights into her life. 

What struck me about both books  was the lack of solitude in her life. She was very much connected to people around her and to those at a distance and seemed to have an endless stream of visitors both invited and of the groupie variety, the latter not surprisingly a source of great irritation. She also travelled quite a lot, to give readings or talks. Plus, like a lot of writers I assume, she had a lot of correspondents. 

It seemed to me her solitude was busy and full of people. Which made me think that the definition of solitude and the need for time alone is a very broad spectrum indeed. For some, a day or two between visitors is solitude. For others (me), that’s a hectic and overwhelmingly busy social time. 

Sarton needed the time alone to write, but I sensed she wasn’t a natural solitary and liked to have or even needed people nearby. That’s an interesting aspect of solitude, how it gets balanced with our need for human contact. Her balance isn’t mine, but she did seem to find what worked for her. 

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