Rhymes with Solitude


    What rhymes with solitude? A rhyme is a room where two’s company. Solitude has to step out for a breath of fresh air.

    I once saw a sculpture made of scrap metal. The artist had created the tall figure of a man with wire strings spanning the length of his torso; a human instrument. With his right hand he plucked his own strings. Should we twang and adjust our own deepest chords before we try to harmonize with the whole human symphony? How do we resonate? What is our pitch? Soli-tune: to perfect being one before attempting to be One.
    Talk to yourself and find out who you are.

    In her book Intimacy and Solitude, Stephanie Dowrick introduces the first chapter with this quote from Michael Leunig:

    ‘Come sit down beside me,’
    I said to myself,
    And although it doesn’t make sense,
    I held my own hand
    As a small sign of trust
    And together I sat on the fence.
    It’s not schizophrenic.
    Uninterrupted contemplation

    I once sat in a class and studied the structure of cells. These small vesicles of subjective life are equipped with their own machinery to produce energy, grow, replicate and dispose of waste. They work in industrious solitude inside tacky, transparent membranes. In collective singularity they become me. Smashed shoulder to shoulder, there’s no room for elbows here if they want to become tissue, organs, organism. Thus I live, in contiguous, yet porous skin. I may leak out. I may absorb.

    The deeper I dig within myself, the more I find "other." The more I search for "other," the more I find myself. I flip myself so inside out that I turn right-side out again!

    Sometimes my heart flips out and skips a beat. My hand flies to my chest and thumps it as if to remind the heart of its usual rhythm. "Here, count with me….LUB-and-dub, LUB-and-dub….don’t stop!" But it has already received too many signals and needs a time-out. Musicians recognize the value of the strategically placed missing beat. "Rest" is a musical term. We all have to repolarize once in a while.

    So, sometimes times I sit at my desk with my chin in my palms and become putty in my own hands. I grope and probe until my fingers sink in, making two depressions. From a sub-cranium well, the depressions fill and become reflecting pools. Eventually my eyes flood and spill over in rivulets of gratitude that flow out and back into the seas that filled them.
    What rhymes with solitude? Rest, solo, decrescendo.
    Unencumbered exploration

    I once hiked a trail along Lake Superior. I walked alone through a mind field, hoping inspiration and insight would explode suddenly under my feet. Sure enough, I felt a boom and a shudder of soil. On a trail barely visible, I followed a rumble barely audible, to a shoreline gutted with sea caves. Waves crashed in and out of them, scooping and smoothing the pressed layers of history on which I stood. Hollowed cathedrals were created where the momentous Now was hallowed. Echoes whispered to themselves and pondered what it all meant.

    Sometimes it seems sad to think about the unwitnessed beauty of Nature. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make noise if no one is there to hear it? I don’t know, but I want to be there so it does. If Nature is going to go to all that trouble to put on a show, she should have an audience. So, I often walk alone just so no one can scare away the wild things before I get to see them.

    Then I look at a picture of Magritte’s painting, "The Spirit of Adventure," and think that he must have walked alone in the woods, too. Here is a solitary man in black bowler hat and overcoat, facing away from us. The tiny image of two men exactly like him is barely visible on the back of his coat. They are facing away from us as well, but gesturing, as if conversing with each other. He is his own best company.
    What rhymes with solitude? Sanctuary, wilderness, hiatus.
    Unchallenged self-assurance

    I once stood on the north end of Texel Island in The Netherlands. A bright red lighthouse stood on a hill behind me, absorbed in its singular purpose. From the vast beach, I watched a wooden sailboat make its way from horizon to shore. It knew exactly where it was going. An invigorated and grateful crew disembarked just as clouds patched the blue hole in the sky. The lighthouse stood ready, though it was not needed that day. One more shade of grey, and it would have had to throw out a beam and reel that sailboat in. I wonder how often we are so sure of our role in this world, especially when we have to stand alone. "One of the great pleasures of solitude is that it gives you a chance to take a rest from seeing yourself through other people’s eyes – or how you imagine other people are seeing you – and to discover more about how you feel inside…," writes S. Dowrick in Intimacy and Solitude. We need privacy to grow, make mistakes, and evolve our thinking.
    Sometimes a quirky poem says it best. In a piece with the simple title "W," Susan Mrosek writes,

    Being a double you, he required twice the
    space as his buddies and was often called upon
    to ‘sit this one out.’
    He felt they were wordy, using two letters to his one,
    and was all too pleased
    to be set aside.

    Set aside, or set apart? I can’t help wondering.

    What rhymes with solitude? Remote. Unanimous, anonymous.

    Unfettered creativity
    I once did a double-take when I looked at "The Human Condition." Magritte did a double-take too, because he gave two of his paintings the same title. They begin with different images, but end with the same message. That’s what rhyming is; beginning differently, but ending the same. In the paintings, an easel stands in front of two different landscapes. The painting on the easel is exactly the same as the landscape in front of it, to the degree that it is difficult to distinguish the subject from the artist’s interpretation. In the solitude of our skin, our interpretation is our artistry.

    The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories informs us that a rare usage of the word alone is "having no equal." Further, it reveals that the word sole can be interpreted as "unrivaled, secluded."

    Webster lists one definition of loneliness as "a deliberately selected state of solitude."

    What rhymes with solitude? Dark, distinct, mystery. Secrecy, serenity, tranquility.

    I am deliberately blurring terms, here. Because different shades of solitude are smeared throughout the portraits of our lives, ending in our solitary signature, in wet paint, at the bottom right-hand corner…

    I once stood by myself in a Starbuck’s, waiting for the barista to make my mocha. On the wall were pictures of various warm drinks. Above each one was the legend, "Pairs well with…" and some pastry or other item was listed.

    What rhymes with Solitude? It is its own rhyme. But, served fresh, it pairs well with…Reflection.

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