Through the years I have covered many outdoor-related topics, from the serious to the not-so-serious. Although I have briefly touched on the area of solitude provided by our open spaces, I have never dedicated an entire column to the subject.
There are several reasons for this. The first is because of classical literature. Some of our world’s greatest philosophers delved into this subject with great detail, expressing it far better in words than this outdoor scribe could ever attempt to. Second, it is an intrinsic value I probably know little about, although I recognize it is something intangible, yet so invaluable.
Most of us were forced to sit through high school English class reading the classic works of scholars like Henry David Thoreau. Maybe this is one reason I hate Thoreau, even though he had a passion for fishing. While many of his books are considered masterpieces and insightful, his writings appear disjointed.
Even though decades have passed since high school English class, there are several passages I have always remembered. This is a minor miracle considering my mind was usually consumed with what to do after school!
In the book “Walden Pond,” Thoreau wrote, “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude itself.” Later on he penned, “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”
When I was younger, I enjoyed being outdoors alone, but for a reason other than finding solitude. It was a time unobstructed where extreme focus could be spent trying to hook that trophy smallmouth bass or catching a largemouth worthy of hanging on the wall. To some degree, it’s still that way.
Don’t get me wrong. Being with family and friends while outdoors is wonderful and these are the times special memories are made. I personally prefer their company the majority of the time. But the focus is more on social interaction rather than the experience itself. When other people are present, rules of conversation require that you listen and interact.