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  • Writer's pictureKatja

“When was the last time you found solitude in nature?”

I bought a beautiful wildlife calendar from my friend’s business, The Outdoor Society, and on today’s date there is a prompt asking “When was the last time you found solitude in nature?”

At first glance, this seems like an easy answer. All the time! However, I paused to reflect a little more and realized it was a very good question.

Solitude (noun): the quality or state of being alone or remote from society: Seclusion.

So, the question asks when I was alone or removed from society in nature.

My first thought was my most recent beach walk when I pushed beyond the normal walking areas and scrambled around and through mudslides and downed trees. That was incredibly secluded to the point where I wondered how wise my decisions were.

Then I began to question what alone means. When I am with my dogs, I am away from other people, but they provide companionship and I do not feel alone. Both Harley and Zoë were with me on the beach walk, so I realized I couldn’t count that as a time of solitude.

The last time I was out in nature without the dogs would be when I was skiing. I did find some alone time over the busy weekend by hoofing it up some back roads. The quiet and beauty took my breath away several times and made me feel connected and filled with happiness.

Then I questioned how “remote” one can be at a ski area with perfect cell phone reception and a radio blaring every few minutes with patrollers responding to calls or reporting their status. No, as much as I love experiencing nature on skis, I could not count this as solitude.

Maybe I am taking the definition a little too far, but the prompt seems to have become a bit of a challenge. When have I been disconnected and removed enough to experience true quiet, stillness, and solitude? Scrolling back through my pictures, I find numerous trips and adventures but nothing that speaks to solitude.

I have to scroll back through hundreds of photos until I come to the first image that I recognize as meeting that definition of solitude…

July, at the camp above Vulcan’s Anvil. Almost half-a-year ago, in the middle of the Grand Canyon.

It is hard to dispute the logic in this. After all, how often can one find a location where they are removed from other people and society with no immediate connection to anyone else? Isn’t that what solitude in nature means?

Even though I found the answer to the calendar prompt, the process of discovering it made me analyze my thinking and recognize the harm in having such narrow definitions. By imposing strict meaning on myself, I set myself up for nostalgia over the “good ol’ days” when it was easier to unplug and be disconnected. What I should be doing is asking myself why I haven’t gone somewhere recently where I turn my communication devices off and give myself a period of solitude. By defining alone as total isolation, I find myself internally pressured to seek out activities or adventures without my dogs or being around other people, which makes me feel a false-sense of obligation to completely separate myself from some of the lifeforms I love the most in this world. I feel like some of my favorite experiences of late don’t count because they don’t meet this sanctimonious standard. All because I pushed the meaning of a question too far towards the literal and ignored the essence of what was being asked.

I do not believe that the author of that prompt meant to drive me to feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, etc. Quite the opposite. I believe he wanted it to serve as a reminder that nature provides us with magical, meaningful moments where we can let go of the daily distractions and connect with what surrounds us right then and there. Being in the stillness of nature and feeling that oneness with our surroundings. Engaging all of the senses. Existing entirely in that moment.

So, when was the last time I found solitude in nature?

Two days ago, standing on the edge of Triple-60 face during closing. The radio was on but silent, my closing partner had not reached me yet, and I felt the stillness of the winter night flowing through me as I stared across the softly lit slopes to the moonlit peaks behind them. I was aware of every breath of wind, flickering star, and creak of the layered snow. I felt perfectly content to remain in that moment for as long as it would hold me. And those moments of solitude were enough to feed my soul and sustain me as I reconnected with reality. That is the last time I found solitude in nature.

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