The work of the art student is no light matter. Few have the courage and stamina to think it through. You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways. We like sympathy and we like to be in company. It is easier than going it alone. But alone one gets acquainted with himself, grows up and on, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this.
Apart from such visits, for the first time in her life Eliza was truly alone. In the beginning, unfamiliar sounds, nocturnal sounds, disturbed her, but as the days passed she came to know them: soft-pawed animals under the eaves, the ticking of the warming range, floorboards shivering in the cooling nights. And there were unexpected benefits to her solitary life: alone in the cottage, Eliza discovered that the characters from her fairy tales became bolder. She found fairies playing in the spiders’ webs, insects whispering incantations on the windowsills, fire sprites spitting and hissing in the range. Sometimes in the afternoons, Eliza would sit on the rocking chair listening to them. And late at night, when they were all asleep, she would spin their stories into her own tales.
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
Never have I thought so much, never have I realized my own existence so much, been so much alive, been so much myself…as in those journeys which I have made alone and afoot. Walking has something in it which animates and heightens my ideas: I can scarcely think when I stay in one place; my body must be set a-going if my mind is to work.
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions
It was almost painful to watch, that kite of mine.
Tethered to the string in my hand. Dancing in the sky all alone.
My breath caught in my throat, my pulse beating wild and crazy on my chest. My heart soaring with every dip and turn of the kite, as if I were flying along, instead of standing with my two feet on the ground, squinting against the sun to see the dance.
What if it fell?
What if the breeze took it away?
I counted the seconds until I could reel it back in.
I was that kite.
Fragile against the wind. Soaring one minute. Spiraling straight down next. Just looking for something to hold me up.
Before I spun out of control and flew away.
Disappearing from sight.
If you have never come up against Nothing you have no idea how it can scare you out of your wits. When I was a child I used to be afraid of Something in the dark. I know now that the most fearful thing about the dark is that we may find Nothing in it.
―Howard Spring, The Mammoth Book of Modern Ghost Stories
None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here: two legs suffice, and big eyes to see with. Walk alone, across mountains or through forests. You are nobody to the hills or the thick boughs heavy with greenery. You are no longer a role, or a status, not even an individual, but a body, a body that feels sharp stones on the paths, the caress of long grass and the freshness of the wind. When you walk, the world has neither present nor future: nothing but the cycle of mornings and evenings. Always the same thing to do all day: walk. But the walker who marvels while walking (the blue of the rocks in a July evening light, the silvery green of olive leaves at noon, the violet morning hills) has no past, no plans, no experience. He has within him the eternal child. While walking I am but a simple gaze.
Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice.
Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy.
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.
On the way we talked about the road sign Bridge Ices Before Road. I always wondered, If that’s a problem, why don’t they just build the bridge out of the same stuff they use to build the road? Drema explained that the bridge isn’t made out of different material than the road, but that the bridge ices quicker because it’s alone, hanging there without the land under it to keep it warm.