loneliness solitudeWritten by Ann B. Goddard

loneliness solitudeA few weeks ago in “Love One Another,” a class offered through Dixie State University’s Institute for Continued Learning, there was considerable discussion about the difference between “loneliness” and “solitude.”

The word “loneliness” generally carries a rather negative connotation, and the class pretty much agreed that the word “solitude” conjures up feelings of quiet introspection and even peacefulness.

I recently drove from St. George to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and although I couldn’t see actual fires burning, there was so much smoke that it made visibility poor in Idaho and Montana. The usual views of the vast mountains and open ranges were just not a part of the drive this time. The beauty was evident, but only in short distances.

My friends in Sandpoint, Idaho have a retreat center and I always stay in one of the yurts, which are a ways from the house. I confess that sometimes when staying there alone, even though I find it so renewing and beautiful, I can get a little nervous and feel lonely and fearful of the night sounds. It seems that I start wondering about the unknown wildlife, hearing sudden sounds from the giant wind chimes hanging from one of the huge evergreens, and so on. Generally, I can talk myself down from this sort of fear, but it challenges me a bit when I have to get up in the middle of the night to use the outhouse, which was really only a short distance from the yurt.

Well, one night I woke up around 1 a.m. and stepped outside my yurt with absolutely no fear regarding any of the usual things that generally bothered me. There was more smoke than there had been the previous days, and even though I didn’t feel a sense of imminent disaster, I was very aware of how important an evacuation plan could be. My friends each had a bag packed, evacuation routes clear in their minds, knew what to do with their vehicles, etc. It got me thinking about how my things were not all that centralized, since I was the only one staying in the retreat center for a few days. It fascinated me how my usual little fears abated and seemed so insignificant and small. I’d shifted from a place of fear and loneliness to a place of calm solitude. I made an inventory in my mind and decided to consolidate and keep unneeded items in the car.

As I said, it wasn’t that I was afraid of impending disaster. It was an awareness that it would be wise to be prepared. I relaxed and slept well, simplified the next day, and really had a more enjoyable visit. A peace settled over me, as I knew I’d done what I could and then let it be. Later in the week, it rained most of one day, clearing away the smoke and revealing the beautiful vistas one normally enjoys there.

Life often presents us with exactly the type of experiences that allow us to figuratively see the smoke, letting the usual little worries and fears dissipate so that we can actually see the bigger picture and make a plan. Then we can take action and even relax and allow life to unfold, making room for peace to settle over it all.

This article was provided by the World Peace Gardens, a nonprofit foundation that holds nonsectarian gatherings to promote world peace and sustainable living every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Green Valley Spa, 1871 W. Canyon View Drive in St. George. Admission is free. For more information, visit W-P-G.org or find World Peace Gardens on Facebook and meetup.com, or call (435) 703-0077.