This winter I’ve become bear-like, hibernating. The cave walls arrived unannounced: a heavy fog that circles my home, enclosing me like a blanket. I have a great view of the mountain, food in the larder, and warm slippers. I go for long walks. I read whole books in one sitting. I write.
photo by Shamash (view from my front porch)
It has been years since I’ve taken time for intentional hermitage. During certain seasons of my life, I’ve spent extended time in silence in Honduran cabins, Bolivian convents, and hostels in Buenos Aires, and I write about these experiences here: On Being a Hermit.
There are times when the social scene simply bores me. I fiddle with the ice in my glass, wondering, “Why am I here?” and I consider shots of tequila to liven my feet to dancing, but it’s not worth the morning hangover. Like this experience (Talk Doesn’t Cook Rice) that took place years ago in Burma, I find my mind wandering out away to solitary places. I think of woodstoves in cabins, and a long view across the Rio Grande Gorge. I remember The Lama Foundation, where I lived for a year in an insulated canvas dome. My water bottle froze solid overnight. I awoke at 4 am, lit a fire, and wrote by a solar-powered desk lamp, then trudged through the garden snow to the prayer room where the community sat in silence until breakfast. And the sun would peak over the ridge, and silence was pink-gold like the train of a queen.
I need solitude these days.
Only in silence can my mind become clear enough to hear that still, small voice that I need to hear so that I can get to where I need to be.