Alone, alone…

Home / Alone, alone… - October 25, 2010 , by admin
I wondered how I would do, when I moved up here over 20 years ago, to be alone in a cabin outside of town. I vaguely knew two people in Sechelt, not well, and of very different worldviews. So I spent a lot of time alone in the cabin, some of it realizing I was not fine. I was lonely. Sometimes I would go several days without speaking, except to the cat and the dog. They were, as companions go, particularly fine, but I discovered myself walking the highway a couple of times a week to buy a stamp, or some milk, and when I got up next in line with my tiny excuse for shopping, my voice would come out and surprise me
I would begin to feel anxiety on my walks, hoping the bank clerks would remember me and want to discuss the bad wind last night, or the cold.. As the weeks went by, I would try to engage the post office workers in chatter, but there were people behind me in the line up. I would walk home, dreaming up dialogue, perhaps a visit to the building supply store next time. I certainly needed a screwdriver. There would be at least two conversations then, one with the salesperson and one at the checkout. Or maybe someone would stop and ask me directions. One could hope. And then they would want to go for a walk! Or … out for dinner!
And one night, very late, I imagined lying on the highway in front of my cabin, in the rain. And I imagined a car drifting to a stop, and two booted feet approaching me on the wet pavement, and then I tried to think how to engage that person, and what I would need to say so that they would take me home, and talk to me. I really thought this.
But the other thoughts I slowly had, as I sat on stumps in the forest, was how all the other creatures seemed very aware of me. Squirrels would shout from the branches. Small birds would sit and watch me, with my foot several inches from the shattered pine cone they had been working on all morning.  Bees would fly carefully around me and wood bugs would make false starts around my boot. And the squirrels knew where the birds were and the birds knew where the bees were. Everyone seemed pretty tuned into each other. They weren’t colliding, seemed well spaced and purposely placed – a small but busy city with larger and smaller organisms moving through it. And here I sat like an oaf, just now becoming aware of the ongoing busyness that politely resumed after I had disrupted the scene with my graceless appearance.

And the plants. We now know of and measure the electromagnetic energy, the humidity, the heat, the hormones, the volatile gasses and sensuous resins that a plant emits from all of its parts, and we know that nearby plants react to these signals constantly. And we know that we ourselves undergo change to our brain chemistry when drifting through these signals. And the plants respond to us, too.  Their chemistry is affected by our electromagnetic energy, the heat of our bodies, our hormones.  A whole flicker of conversation shifts when we enter a clearing, and our body knows it is happening – it is part of the conversation.  But sometimes it takes our minds a long time to catch up.

One day I discovered a rat in a live trap that I had set in my crawl space. We both jumped when I opened the crawl space door.  And then I spoke in surprise, and the rat relaxed its body and came to the wires and looked curiously at me. I went upstairs to get it some food and returned, and hand fed it slices of banana through the wire bars. It ate its banana pieces calmly and I ate some too, and I thought, “This rat knows my voice and my scent, probably grew up knowing me. Hears me on the phone, smells what I am cooking for dinner, knows where I have been by the tang of my boots and hand tools. I am part of its world and it is at ease with me. How can I not know a creature who knows so much about me?”  And the squirrel knows me and my habits and has learned to co-exist. And of course the birds in my yard know me, and the raven who flies over the garden and yells at me knows me.  One day, it dropped a whole muffin beside me in the gravel as it flew the length of our very quiet road.

Why do I think I am alone?

It took a while for me to see that, in my early desperation to be with humans, I would sometimes be bored and disgusted with the drunkenness of the bar, the banal chatter of the coffee house, and that the place I was becoming more content was with my bees, my angry squirrels, my thousands and thousands of plants emitting their daily gasses for my brain and heart to absorb. Now I try to be more considerate of how I affect them, as well.

It wasn’t a pretty time, living through that early loneliness. And I still get bursts of angst at what the local flora and fauna are not providing me.

But I often wonder if the cure for the human condition – our constant disconnectedness – is only as far away as the nearest stump.

Interview With Robin Wheeler

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