Everyone needs a place where they can be alone.

This file includes Solitude, Silence, and Introverts


Page Toppers


Nobody Knows it But Me

(Patrick O'Leary)

There's a place that I travel,
When I want to roam
And nobody knows if but me.

The roads don't go there,
And the signs stay home
And nobody knows it but me.

It's far, far away and way, way afar,
It's over the moon and the sea,
And wherever you are going,
That's wherever you are
And nobody knows it but me.


(from The Adventure of Being Alone by Eric Sloane)

I find comfort and peace in solitude. There are those who would live by the side of the road and watch the race of men go by, but my idea of a perfect place to live is a farmstead where I can't see another house. Even a distant chimney shatters my sense of tranquility; at night, faraway lighted windows are prying eyes watching me.
You can tell a 'loner' by his work: a writer who enjoys being alone writes as if talking to himself, and a painter of the same sort views landscapes without benefit of people to enliven the scene. My countryside subjects seldom have anyone there, and for a while I wondered if I had lost the knack of painting people. Presenting an art award to me, Louis Nizer brought that up, and I squirmed. "Sloane seldom has people in his paintings," he said. Then the famous lawyer with the gift of words delighted me. "But there is always someone in Sloane's paintings," he added. "It is you!"
Knowing the difference between alone and lonely can be more important than other things a student learns, and when I think of the time I spent with Latin, I wonder why the simple subject of living was never considered a proper school subject. The appalling number of recent dropouts, runaways and teen-age suicides might indicate the need for children to know the fine art of coping with being alone.
Solitude in youth is painful because the art of living comfortably with it has not yet been learned; it is usually only in maturity that solitude becomes delicious. At one time, when life was confusing and my mind lacked decision, I went to people for advice. I have since learned that the answers were usually within me all the while. Now when I am perplexed, I seek seclusion and, in the eloquence of silence, I wait for the replies to arrive. And they do.

I Am a Rock

(Simon and Garfunkel)

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don't talk of love,
Well I've heard the word before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

(Note: At one time I would have used this song to illustrate the meaning of the word 'solitude'. It was only as I got older that I learned that being alone because you don't trust people is vastly different from being alone because you are comfortable with yourself. Now I think of this song as an example of how not to live your life. It took me a long time to realize that if you don't let yourself experience pain you can't fully experience joy, and if you don't let yourself cry you can't really laugh. I am still somewhat of a 'rock' at times but I am no longer an 'island'--thanks to the wonderful friends and family members who were waiting for me to let them into my life.)

Alone versus Lonely

(Denny Davis)

Solitude is something I usually enjoy
I rarely feel lonely when I am alone
But in that bed with him
I always felt isolated and sad

Now alone in bed I feel relaxed
And free to be me
Still sometimes sad and lonely
But no longer isolated

Whoever it was that said
"I'd rather be lonely for someone
Than lonely with someone"
knew what they were talking about.

For more stuff about loneliness see Missing You.

Rough Country

(Dana Gioia)

Give me a landscape made of obstacles,
of steep hills and jutting glacial rock,
where the low-running streams are quick to flood
the grassy fields and bottom lands.

A place no engineers can master--where the roads
must twist like tendrils up the mountainside
on narrow cliffs where boulders block the way.

Where tall black trunks of lightning-scalded pine
push through the tangled woods to make a roost
for hawks and swarming crows.

And sharp inclines
where twisting through the thorn-thick underbrush,
scratched and exhausted, one turns suddenly
to find an unexpected waterfall,
not half a mile from the nearest road,
a spot so hard to reach that no one comes.

A hiding place, a shrine for dragonflies
and nesting jays, a sign that there is still
one piece of property that won't be owned.

Songs about Solitude

(Anna Quindlen from the Wichita Eagle-Beacon 9 Aug 1987)

I got in a lot of trouble when I was a kid for not getting enough fresh air. There was a big chair in our living room, overstuffed and worn, and even on the nicest day of the year I could be found there, my legs draped over one arm of the chair, reading.

I read a great deal, with no particular sense of originality or discernment. I read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, A Little Princess and A Wrinkle in Time. I read pretty awful stuff, like magazines for teenagers and I read pretty adult stuff like Wuthering Heights. I still remember reading Ulysses when I was thirteen and thinking, " What a weird book."

My mother was thinking, "What a weird child." When the sun was shining and the neighborhood kids were playing "Monkey in the Middle," my mother was always yelling at me to go outdoors. She did not understand the appeal of the great indoors.

To force the issue one summer, my parents sent me to camp. Thinking of it even today is, as Evelyn Waugh's Bright Young Things say, "too, too sick-making." All those people and all that activity all the time. I'll never forget it.

I still read, constantly; if my kids ever go into analysis, I am sure they will say they don't remember my face because it was always hidden by a book. Obviously, this is in part because I like books. But another reason is that I like to be alone. I like to go deep inside myself and not be accompanied there by anyone else.

But I am the oldest of five children, and when I was young I had about as much chance of being alone as I did of being a lion tamer. Reading was for me than a way of lifting myself out of a crowded environment into a place where I could be by myself.

No wonder my mother was concerned. Being by yourself was considered, at my age and in my family, aberrant behavior. Camp was normal. Camp was fun. Camp was crowded. Camp was horrible.

We pay lip service to the notion that privacy is important, but I don't really think we believe it. When anyone lives alone, we have a tendency to think he or she is just waiting to meet the right roommate; we have an impulse to pair off our friends or to introduce them to others. Single people eating in restaurants are assumed to be there for lack of a companion, not because they like their own company.

It is difficult for us to accept that a great many outwardly gregarious people often are inwardly private, that they have a chocolate-covered-almond kind of character. This happens to be the case with me, although societal conditioning has made me think about these two parts of myself as a little like the geography of the state of Michigan.

I am so gregarious that I was once the perfect mourner at an Irish wake, even though I realized when I approached the coffin that I was in the wrong viewing room. At the same time, I love solitude so much that one of my favorite parts of the week is when I have finished my work before the sitter is due to leave and I can hide out in my room for a half hour reading a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery.

Actually when I lived alone I was lonely a fair amount of the time, but it felt restorative. Perhaps I was making up for all those years of living in a crowded house, and all the years to come when, I suspected, I would live in one again. Because of youth or duty or love, I have often lived in crowded houses, in which a book was partly an excuse for staring into the middle distance, zoning out, being inside your own skin.

I have cultivated pastimes that make this type of behavior socially acceptable. I do needlework, watch television and, yes, read--all excuses for chewing the cud, ruminating over whatever crosses my mental screen.

Or, like a narcoleptic, I can simply lapse into my middle-distance attitude. My eyes unfocus and my mouth drops open just a bit. I look like a fish that was sideswiped by the Queen Elizabeth II and never knew what hit it. My family calls this my "zone look." It means" do not disturb."

I wonder if this is hereditary or whether I simply belong to a family of essentially solitary people placed by fate within large and voluble groups.

My father, for example, fishes; it is a pursuit some people do not understand--luring a cold-blooded creature to its death on the end of a piece of string. But fishing has very little to do with fish, at least the way my dad practices it. It has to do with sinking within yourself, charting your course. And I'm all for that.

I also have a child who habitually lapses into the zone look, although at his age I cannot imagine what he is thinking. Friends have started asking me when he will begin lessons: swimming, piano, art and the like.

I want him to have the best of everything, but the best of everything for me was often staring off into the middle distance. I want him to have lots of time for that. If I were asked what I am most afraid of his missing in his life, I think I would answer "solitude." I would say the same for me.

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Page Toppers



(James Whitcomb Riley)

A little boy once played so loud
That the thunder, up in a thundercloud,
Said, "Since I can't be heard, why then
I'll never, never thunder again!"

And a little girl once kept so still
That she heard a fly on the window sill
Whisper and say to a ladybird--
"She's the stillest child I ever heard!"

To Make a Prairie

(Emily Dickinson)

To make a prairie it takes clover and one bee;
One clover and a bee,
And reverie
The reverie alone will do
If bees are few.

Real Silence

(Peter Minard)

Not merely an absence of noise,
Real Silence begins when a reasonable being
withdraws from the noise in order to find
peace and order in his inner sanctuary.

Songs about Silence

Songs about Shh

Songs about Quiet

Songs about Hush

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