Since Caroline started flexi-schooling in May 2018 (3 days a week at school, the remainder at home) I’ve dropped her to school before walking the dog on my own.
It’s been a deeply empowering time and I realised the other week (on taking this photo) how important the power of solitude really is.
My boy’s pawprints in pristine sand on an empty Northumberland beach
Solitude is the situation of being alone by choice. It often has sad connotations but also peace, quiet, tranquility and privacy. It is also described as a lonely or uninhabited place.
For me it has no negative undertones. It is a powerful, rejuvenating state of choice and calm.
The Mummy Conundrum, Does Parenting Mean Socialising & Other Adults?
When we have children, people constantly go on at us to get out and connect with other people, adults, other Mums, people going through the same experiences.
So we throw ourselves into parenting and when we have the slightest bit of energy we throw ourselves into socialising with adults.
Of course we all need that, the human connection of community that is so sadly lacking in this age of screen and techno-communication.
Me-Time Can Mean Time Alone
What is rarely said to any of us, let alone new Mums, is to find time for ourselves. I don’t mean time in the bath, or the garden while the kids are still around, nor time with other women or mothers who might all moan about the same exhaustion, the mess at home, the noise, the loss of individuality. Yes, we all need that too, but communing with other Mums all the time means our irritations, frustrations and sadnesses can be reinforced rather than relieved because we’re all in the same boat.
When I say time for ourselves, for myself, I mean time in nature, outdoors preferably, and on my own. Or with a silent companion like the dog!
This isn’t a post I’d planned to write, but in my recent epiphany about solitude I’ve just had the most momentous experience at the beach.
A Walk in Nature
Arriving here before 9am after dropping Caroline at school is heaven in itself. A lovely comment from a school-gate Mum buoyed me and a quick chat with some visiting golfers as they set off on the stunning coast-side course made me smile – they thought I was hardy wearing flipflops. Little do they know the flipflops don’t last long once I reach the sand.
I cross the golf course to reach the beach, wary of low flying golf balls on the way.
And then it’s just me.
The sandy track through the Marram and dunes opens like theatre curtains onto a tantalising tableaux of shore and sea. This morning the waves were unusually high with an offshore wind blowing the tops off, making fearsome manes of the powerful ocean chargers.
A sight impossible to capture on film.
It stole my breath.
As I mounted the summit of the dunes the complete expanse of beach opened before me; sand, sea, sun, the ocean cavalry advancing on my enchanted castle, seabirds and a lone crow swooping cautiously over a mini school of stranded jellyfish. And not another soul in sight.
I actually dropped to my knees, they literally just gave way…
And a few seconds of stunned crying overcame me. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. Never been physically brought to my knees or floored by anything in my entire life. The Brontes would eugelise about emotion, the beauty and power of it all, about being overcome by happiness or sadness.
The Unexpected Spirituality of Nature Connection
I think it was something utterly different to any of those things. They seem to miss the point. I didn’t feel deeply sad or deeply happy. I wasn’t melancholy or lonely nor euphoric or ecstatic. I think the sensation was connection.
With the earth, the landscape, nature, the actual sand between my toes, the air, the power of water, the view and the joy of sight, and spirituality. Some connection with my soul, my heart, my spirit and the earth. The power of God at work in the ordinary of life. The reason nature, and the wildness of it, figure so strongly in my life and why it should figure in all our lives.
It seemed to pull all of spirituality together, and our deep human need for connection aside from with our fellow human beings, in one glorious double tap to my heart.
This photo sums it up.
I can’t remotely describe it, the photo doesn’t do it justice but the knowing that consumed me was intense.
There is the light of the sun without which, at levels physical and spiritual, we could not exist.
The earth upon which we depend for life.
The infinite power of the ocean; water, the element of soul and that shoreward cavalry charge connecting souls and earth.
And then wind, birds in the air; the element of spirit. Silent, invisible, coming and going as a whisper in the trees.
All with the backdrop of my enchanted castle, proof of the strength and beauty that humankind can create.
Even in ruins it screams power and beauty yet in ruins it provides the proof of our transience on this planet. The manmade building will be gone in a few hundred years but the air and water and earth continue on.
I feel beyond blessed to live in such a mind-blowingly beautiful area of the world. Of the wild.
But wherever we live we can all seek and discover solitude on any given day. Under a tree in the street, on a bench in the park. In a quiet corner of the coffee shop. At the top of a skyscraper overlooking the city. Nature isn’t just something briefly glimpsed in the countryside. It is around us everywhere, it’s our roots and wings, it’s who we are. Connecting is what’s required. I believe it’s what we all subconsciously crave.
And once invigorated by our time in solitude we are nourished and replenished to get out and connect with community again.
I know I am.
The power of peace and solitude has astounded and contented me.
Where will your solitude find you this week?
For more on finding time for yourself as a parent check out my #oxygentime posts and for inspiration to get into nature read about how the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild programme helped me back outdoors when I was in need of outdoor inspiration.
Not heard of Oxygen Time? Read more on energy for parenting – it’s all about you.