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February 2017

Thursday 16th February

There has been a silence of over a year since I the last time I felt able or even compelled to commit thoughts to such an unusual platform.  This has been one of the most arduous and painful years and I have simply lacked the will, patience or even time to write.  Never being of a nature that is too willing to indulge in hyperbole or publicly defined self-indulgence, the simple resolution was to abandon these pages altogether.

Having some time away from college has allowed a great sense of consolidation, of reflection and, to some extent, the beginning of a process of healing, or of consolation.  If there were one state to which I could be subject to for extraordinary lengths if time, then that state is isolation.  Being alone allows me to truly become myself, as for the world I offer a kind of shallow puppet, an imposter, a charlatan, with no more reality of existence than the merest thought of a shadow.  In solitude, I find comfort and it is as if the state of loneliness imparts a benign barrier between my shell and the curt, abrasive, brash, vulgar and intrusive world in which we are bound.

I return to my research, begun two years ago, and find myself reading May Sarton’s Journals of a Solitude, and become immersed her insightful, languid, self-obsessed, irascible, impish, tender, considerate, brutish prose.  Her works seem, at times, like pale mirrors of myself, and there is some solace in this.

Nick

Saturday 18th February

I have been reasonably productive of late, having resumed my research project for my book, In search of the untethered mind.  I find myself immersed in the world of May Sarton, and at once fascinated and consumed.  She has a manner of writing which is able to communicate delicate, private and nuanced feeling without resort to hyperbole or cloying sentimentality.  Neither is she overtly self-absorbed.  Her work, Journal of a Solitude, I can highly recommend, but you have to allow her into your thinking space.  Here is a brief extract:

May Sarton, on the benefits of a solitary existence, can rationalise the Hell to which she is all too often subjected, her life often blighted by stultifying depression. Yet, she recognises that a solitary existence does preclude stumbling into the entrapments of contemporary lives, where decisions are choices are greatly diminished. Her fortitude is heartening, and not with any sense of desolate stoicism, but with a fortitude which gains its strength through her art form. Her recognition that she is, with respect to the usual familial and matrimonial trappings, in an existence of glorious isolation, is brutally candid.

May Sarton, on the benefits of a solitary existence, can rationalise the Hell to which she is all too often subjected, her life often blighted by stultifying depression. Yet, she recognises that a solitary existence does preclude stumbling into the entrapments of contemporary lives, where decisions are choices are greatly diminished. Her fortitude is heartening, and not with any sense of desolate stoicism, but with a fortitude which gains its strength through her art form. Her recognition that she is, with respect to the usual familial and matrimonial trappings, in an existence of glorious isolation, is brutally candid.

From this sense of separation, of artistic quarantine, seclusion, her indefatigable ‘pilgrimage inward’ (Sarton 1993, p.40), that she is able to not simply validate or rationalise her life, but to recognise the necessity of her retreat from modern existence. That her emotional and artistic connection to the world of nature is held at the centre of her existence is evident, and through this she is able to direct her writing; a philosophy that the dear old New England Transcendentalists would concur over a century and a half before. Her state of segregation is aptly and wholeheartedly vindicated: ‘It is comforting to know there are lighthouse keepers on rocky islands along the coast.’ (Sarton 1993, p.40)

These days of solitude and contemplation are rare and the sporadic gift of clarity of thought is welcome and cherished.  With a clear and healthy mind comes a responsive body, and I have been running every day.  In July I damaged my right knee, a foolish occurrence, which occurred through overuse.  I love running and to be out in the glorious canopy of Leicestershire for two or more hours is an experience which it is impossible to replicate.  To those who suggest I take up cycling simply fail to comprehend, and I get fatigued by those dullards who have not exercised since school days, or National Service, yet who offer useless advice on how to restore an injured joint.

Part of my research involves exploring the role of the reflector in solitude, and in so doing I came across the web site of writer, Jennifer Ellis.  He web site is a treasure of information, but she also discusses solitude.  She has kindly given me permission to use her work in citations, for which I am truly grateful.

I have been reading Sarton this morning, and this has put me in a very even and reflective mood.  I shall run in a minute or two, but not too far and avoiding too much tarmac and hills.  But I love running hills!

Nick