Solitude, aloneness and landscape

I don’t need to be on my own to be lonely. Like many people, some of my loneliest experiences have been in the company of people where I have not felt I belonged.  I’m good at not belonging, and there aren’t that many people in whose company I find solace.

Solitude, on the other hand, has been something I’ve actively sought for much of my life. The peace to sit with my own thoughts, the freedom to be as I am with no reference to anyone else. Not being around people does not always cause me to feel lonely.

One of the things that lockdown clarified for me, is that I experience loneliness most intensely in relation to landscape. I don’t find wild, human-free landscapes lonely though. The kinds of wild landscapes other people might call bleak, barren or lonely, have never struck me that way. Expanses of land and sky give me a feeling of belonging, of being held and acceptable.

I am nothing to a hill. I find that immensely comforting. Skies do not judge. Trees do not want small talk. The landscape has little or no interest in me, but is also accepting of me. The loneliness of not being easy in human spaces is eased for me by being out under the sky. Finding the official guidelines when lockdown began were to only go outside for an hour each day was hell, and plunged me deep into depression. In the end I ignored what I was supposed to do, but walked at night and in the early dawn light so as to pose no risk to anyone else.

The loneliness that comes from being landscape starved is worse than anything I have ever felt about a shortage of people.

There are people I need. People I missed dreadfully when I couldn’t spend time with them in person. I know who they are now, and they know who they are, and some of those relationships have evolved of necessity. People I know it is safe to be emotionally honest with. People whose absence causes me the same kind of distress as not being out under the sky enough. There aren’t many of them.

I find the loneliness of being with people where I don’t belong is far harder to deal with in the short term than not having much contact with people outside my household. Over the long term, the absence of people I care about has been painful, but the absence of people generally has been fine, and in many ways a blessing.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Solitude, aloneness and landscape

  • Natalia Clarke

    Agree with everything you say in relation to land and people and seeking solitude on purpose. Isolation is my mission 😂 as long as I have nature all around me. All I need

  • plateresca

    Where I live – in Spain – people are extremely social; this is partly why we were hit by Covid so much, people are socializing and kissing all the time. So I often feel like I’m a freak because I just don’t need company, I hate noisy parties and I stay in my house most of the time anyway.
    And you know, when the quarantine began, all of my neighbours were here, because it’s just easier to bear isolation in houses than in flats in Madrid. Normally, they are never here all at once, so I’m used to silence. This spring, when I went out of the house, I was always, always hearing my neighbours. I hated it. I hated them 🙂 So I wished it would end soon, not because I wanted to go out, but because I wanted them to get out of here 🙂

  • potiapitchford

    Yep. My longing was for the sound of river, waterfall or sea. I don’t have any of those close to where we live, not even a burbling stream to listen to. I don’t need those sounds every day but being cut off from them as we were increased my longing. It was such a relief when I could finally get somewhere I could sit and listen to water flowing and bubbling for a while. I’m also missing the horses and being able to get close to them. People I can mostly do without seeing, the ones I need most I live with. Online interactions with you and Cat I’d miss dreadfully if I lost them tho.

  • thegreeningspirit

    I so relate to your beautiful post, Nimue, and the comments above by good people who love solitude, especially the kind experienced in nature. Here in the USA we are experiencing a tough time for many reasons and the isolation, distancing and inter-personal physical disconnect with family and friends is so hard. I tend to need lots of alone time for spiritual and creative projects, but I know we also need loving hugs, touch and eye-to-eye communications from the heart. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on solitude and loneliness so eloquently.

  • Cheryl Simpson

    “The landscape has little or no interest in me, but is also accepting of me.” You have perfectly articulated something that I also feel, but that I’ve struggled to make sense of. Thank you!

  • Readerbythesea

    Beautifully put, one of the few upsides of lockdown was being able to avoid people. I find most people exhausting to be around. And my walks were improved immensely by the lack of any traffic noise in the background, I could even see the mainland clearer than ever, which I put down to less air pollution. I need to get on a bus to get to my really wild places though so at the moment I’m waiting till the summer people return home.

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