Howling at the treetops
When was the last time you were alone? I mean completely alone. The kind of alone where you are untethered from all other souls by sight, sound or satellite, and for a moment cease to exist in anyone’s universe but your own. My best guess is that a lot of you out there have never had the pleasure of screaming without being heard.
Solitude is an experience I hope everyone gets to explore throughout their life. To leave the sphere of other humans is to enter a world in which you live entirely for your self. For me, it isn’t until I am relieved of the constant game of “I wonder what they’re thinking” that I even realise I’ve been playing it at all. I often feel I’m watching myself navigate life in third person, obsessing on hypothetical judgements I imagine from everyone around me. It’s like everything I do has a secondary awareness to it: what do they think of me, and what do they think I think of them?
To find yourself completely alone is a shortcut to quieting this voice – and that is when you start to really notice things.
The first time I had an experience of genuine solitude I must’ve been around 10 years old. I am only just realising how privileged I was to have been given the opportunity to explore. Every new year I would go with my family to an old cabin in the Scottish boarders. One day I was playing in the river outside and ventured off alone into the woods.
After a few minutes of mindless walking, there was a distinct moment of realising I was no longer within reach of my family. It was like a great weight had been lifted from my head and placed somewhere in my chest. A freeness of mind but also an acknowledgment of vulnerability.
I can remember my heart beating with excitement as I looked over my shoulder and saw nothing but trees. I threaded my way through the river hopping from rock to rock, getting lost in the cocktail of thrill and peace that I’d never before experienced. Once I was comfortable in my isolation, I filled my lungs and howled.
For me the beauty of these moments is found in the simultaneousness of everything and nothing. The fullness of your internal experience perfectly contradicts the emptiness of your environment. You feel like a neon red island in an ocean of greys—your energy radiates in all directions, dissipating into silence. It is the close-up, high paced, visceral world of immediate experience layered on top of a cold and humbling knowledge of your insignificance.
Go hang out with yourself. See what comes up. Maybe you’ll find that you’ve never felt like an individual before, only a part of a larger system; or maybe for the first time in your life you’ll feel like an animal exploring its habitat. Maybe you’ll start laughing. Maybe you’ll be scared. It changes every time, but not once have I regretted my adventures into solitude.