Dictionaries explain ‘solitude’ with words like ‘isolation’ and throw in a pang of loneliness. Etymologically it derives from the Latin solus, which literally means ‘alone’. Other words play around it, like ‘solitaire’ and ‘solo’, each taking the alone-factor and making it its own. And then this very blog post – a written soliloquy.Solitude and I are good friends. It’s contentment. Me-time. I potter about the house doing mundane things. Hang out the washing. Write a blog post. Have a cup of tea. I don’t have to meditate in a mountain cave starving myself of stimulation or be in the darkest depths of depression to find her. She’s not to be feared – she’s just misunderstood. Some people attempt to save me from an evening by myself, as though I’d be locked in an empty room without windows. Why should ‘sought solitude’ carry a different intention to ‘going solo’? Why does ‘being alone’ sound less like a choice?
The Pre-Raphaelite painters with their classical themes fed my feeling that Solitude should be borne from mythical or historical roots. This painting by Leighton surely depicts the goddess Solitude not merely the noun. She could be a goddess, or the Patron Saint of Oneness. She’d be humble, of course.
As a lone type, I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I hadn’t met my husband. I wanted to share my life with someone I loved but even while wanting that, I wasn’t inclined to actively seek it. I approached companionship with a pinch of hope and a handful of qué sera sera. Fortunately, our paths did cross so I’ve never discovered a limit to my solitary tendencies. The saturation point where it crystallises into loneliness or knocks on the door of claustrophobia. Hubby’s a bit of a lone-monkey himself. I could be writing while he’s in his workshop building a thingymewhatsit. We even seem to sit together in solitude, mentally immersed in completely different activities until one of us puts the kettle on. Perhaps it is even a mutual affection for Solitude that helped to link us (now there’s an oxymoron for you).
Of course, it’s hard for my friends to entice me out when slopping about in comfy clothes to tinker with words or bake a cake is as appealing. Completely different, but still appealing. So then there’s that crazy weigh-up which is difficult to explain to anyone other than a hermit, “I’d love to go out, but I want to stay home by myself…”
Solitude needs to be revised. Instead it should derive from the Latin sollus meaning whole or the legend of the goddess Solitude. The lone wanderer. Philosopher, writer and hobbyist who potters about in her isolated mountain cabin in harmony with herself, the seasons and the local woodland creatures. She is neither lonely or sad and when asked what piece of advice she would give to other solitary wanderers she replies, “Embrace solitude, but don’t forget to get off the mountain.”