Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 26, 2011

The purpose of solitude

Definitely solitudinous. Canyonlands NP, Needles district, three minutes before sunset

I get back to my trailer before 5 pm daily — kick my boots off, fix a bite of supper, read a little, get comfortable… and know that I have five or six hours until bedtime. This is when all my practice living alone comes in handy. I do NOT need to be entertained… but these evenings can get long. It’s an invitation to welcome solitude and look for the gifts it can bring.

“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me — naked, vulnerable, weak, broken — nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness…”  (Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart)

Sunrise at Arches NP -- just me and this gorgeous pinnacle.

Out here in the stillness, looking inward comes much more readily. Soberingly, I find myself face to face with a person I don’t always enjoy being with. She can be selfish, lazy, judgmental, and egotistical… for starters. It is far easier to look at her positives — joyful, passionate, curious, ebullient. Solitude helps me come to a more balanced and accurate understanding of who I am… and then look toward who I want to become.

Nouwen describes “the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition.” Daily, restlessly, I try to convince myself that I’m much more ______ [insert any positive adjective here: wise, virtuous, kind, etc] than I really am. Gratefully, piece by piece, solitude dismantles that illusion.

Do you embrace, or avoid, solitude? Why?

February 25, 2010

Leaving Vail

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:08 am
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Austerity is a word that doesn’t seem much used in upscale ski resorts. In this small filthy rich prosperous enclave of Beaver Creek, one would never know the Dow lost 101 points yesterday, or that one in ten Americans is jobless. I am blessed to have beloved friends who offered me the second bedroom of the mountainside penthouse condo they were given for two days. As I, a flat-lander with increasingly minimalist leanings, take in the experience, I wonder if this is reality or illusion. Oh, the terrain is certainly real, and in an epic way. The pretend world that has been built up around it, however, leaves me shaking my head. I’m a fish out of water. The quaint village shops offer me a things like a pair of jeans for $236, or a special purse for $525.  Skiing is $98 per day for a lift ticket. Time to go find a national park. (Entrance fee: $10/week.)

Leave a comment: What is the worst sticker shock you’ve had? And, how can the uber-privileged and the Zen minimalists co-exist joyfully?

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