More on Solitude

This is my tenth trip to Cape Cod.

The first time I came was at suggestion of Cindy (AKA, the woman I love), before we were married. I had a need to get away, and I needed to finish a project, a novel that had stalled out near the end. She suggested Cape Cod, in the off season and away I went. I fell in love and have been coming here ever since when I feel stalled out or overwhelmed. (sometimes both). I have been here enough now that I sort of know the lay of the land, have a couple of favorite restaurants, and a couple of favorite beaches.

The pattern of my time is pretty much the same. I get breakfast, and go wander the seashore until early afternoon, then go back to my room or airbnb in the heat of the day and sit with my computer and do something. Write. Think out loud. puzzle through things. Take a nap. Then fourish or so, I got back out to the beaches or salt marshes again, and later, go find dinner and back to the room. There are periods of solitude (I wrote about that earlier this morning.).

Each trip finds its own focus, or focuses. This trip has had four focal points, all unintended, but somehow rising to my consciousness.

The first has been on faces. For some reason, as I have walked through town, or by the salt marshes, or the beaches, my attention has always been drawn to people – I am a constant people watcher, but yesterday, I have been drawn to faces, looking at them more intently than is polite, and watching particularly for signs of happiness or joy. It’s been odd, among the tourists like myself, there have not been many faces of happiness. Most of them seem kind of miserable, no matter if they are alone (most are not) or with someone. The locals however, whether they are talking to us tourist types (maybe they feel they have to be friendly with us. Income matters) or with other locals, just seem happier. Maybe it is the place. Maybe something else, but it has been a thing I notice again and again. I wish it was not rude and borderline illegal to shoot pictures of people’s faces and then post them. I have seen all sorts of fascinating, beautiful and intricate faces.

The second focal point has been on pushing. Pushing past what I normally do here. Yesterday I walked along the beach, and instead of turning around when I began to tire, I pushed myself to talk further. Maybe a little too far – I was sore last night when I got to my room. Don’t ask me why, but I just felt I needed to go further than was comfortable. I have lost ground the past three years with all my surgeries and radiation treatments and kidney stones, and while I have gained a little ground, strength wise, it has not been enough to suit me. I need to push more than I have, and I did yesterday. I did today too. There is a stone causeway near the salt marshes that goes a ways, maybe a mile or so, to a lighthouse. I rarely go all the way. I go a ways, take pictures of the marshes, and come back to the car, It is not a hard walk, but the stones are uneven and walking it works some new muscles, Today I walked it to the island and back, I was sore when I started and I expect i will be sore in new places later today as well. It was mindless, and while walking there was not a conscious declaration that I was beginning to offset some of the lethargy of the past few years, but sitting here in the cool of the common area of the airbnb, writing, it seems to me that perhaps it is the start to something I needed to start. We’ll see.

I still like myself. That is one of the lessons, one way or the other, of solitude. In a world that is often focused elsewhere, sometimes we lose ourselves, We can emerge from those times not liking ourselves. I’ve been there. I suspect some of you have too. Solitude is a reality check. There is no one else to like or not like. There are no distractions, no things to do. A lot of my thinking has been around what sets me apart? What makes me unique in what I do, or all the things I do? I used to know that in my past work, but in my new, more individually focused work, I am not sure I understand completely what is uniquely me. It’s not a crisis of identity really, not something pressing on me, just a curiosity. Because when you know that, you can do what you do better, and you know better what you need to work on. It is good, when I am in solitude, or eating a meal alone, or even here in the upper room of the airbnb, that I think I am good company. I may not have my answers yet, but what I am seems to be comfortable to be with, even alone.

There are a lot of artists here this week. I see them everywhere with their plein air easel propping up canvases and each one intently daubing and stroking their art in every level of detail or impressionism, in every palette imaginable. For some reasons, seeing them, and seeing the fishing boats in the port, it got me thinking about when I first started drawing. I was just a small boy, maybe eight or ten. My grandparents always rented a place at Claremont, Virginia, on the James River. The river is wide and commercial ships went up and down the river all day. I would sit in the shade and draw them. I particularly loved tugboats.

I don’t have any of those childish drawings, but my memory of the was that they were pretty good. Good enough that when I began to draw again, in college, I had no hesitation in me. I used pen and ink to draw detailed art for well over two decades before it faded away. I did not start my abstract art until I was in my late fifties, and I have not drawn more than a half dozen images since. It got me wondering if I could reclaim the knack, and wondering if anyone would like them enough to buy them. It would be a whole different clientele than the people who buy my abstracts. Or maybe I don’t care. I could do both, even if they don’t seem to belong to the same person. I don’t know if I will, but it got me thinking.

None of these are things I would think about in the busyness of life. I might have a passing thought, but I would not sit and think and let the feelings of the thoughts sink in. I am sure I would survive just fine without them, but it is nice to have the time to see where life leads me, and what it has to teach me when no one is trying to tell or teach me what they want to know. Honesties, good and less good, leak out, but only when we give them time.

Be well. Travel wisely, I think I need some Ibuprofen. .

Tom

PS – the picture is a photograph I took last night, and then digitized into a “drawing”.

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