On the Trail of Solitude

[journal entry describing a trail hike at Pokagon State Park in Indiana]

On the trail, two people have passed me, and this too has disrupted my mood and my deep need for solitude today. Why is it that as I get older, I less and less want to be around other people and more and more want to be left alone? I have not–nor can I imagine myself ever getting to this point–become so solitary that I’m never in need of company, that I never have points of loneliness that I really need to come home to a loving core, yet I do find that time alone is more and more essential to me.

Right now I am paused. I choose a branch of the trail system that seems less likely to be traveled, a loop that winds through a nature preserve and skirts none of the civilized patches of the park. Then I pick a site to sit off the trail, through an incline, over a fallen tree. On this rise, looking out only onto the upper halves of a forest of trees, sounds dominate. A tree nearby squeaks, sounding as if it may fall. A steady whir of cicadas hums in the background, a maraca rattle backdrop to the blow of wind and the occasional crash of a nut onto the winter mulch of last year’s leaves. Below me I hear the movements of small animals at intervals, perhaps a squirrel shuffling along the ground or a bird rustling the leaves of its perch.

In the tree beside me is a spider web constructed outward from the trunk and attached along the top edge to a twig of a branch with insect-eaten foliage. The strands are so fine that my eyes can’t discern how and where the bottom left corner attaches: is it to the ground in a stretching guy-wire, or does that corner flap free in the breeze or curve back into a tented attachment to the trunk again? Only when a slant of light hits it full on can I see it at all, a silver, shining sunburst spinning back to a mottled core.

No one is passing. No human voices wake me, so I drown. I am lulled by this silence and feel I could fall into a one hundred year sleep, a Rip Van Winkle state from which I may never awake.

But no. I am too driven, even in my leisure, and I think about needing to get back on the trail, needing to press on towards society.

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