Solitude

I’ve been thinking about inspiration a lot lately. It’s that point in the semester when students are developing their first stories, and they’re worried about where to get them. I have a thousand methods for coming up with ideas, but the best is daily writing.

This is news to no one. The second part of this equation, however, is silence, and that is the part that is often more difficult to manage because in this day of noise and motion, silence seems like laziness to a lot of people.

Except, I think about the first time I knew that I was a writer. I must have been about fourteen years old and just forming my identity. My parents had taken my brothers and me up to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for a week, and once we were there, they gave us as much freedom as we wanted to wander the mountains. We could stay with them or go on our own, and I did both as the mood struck me. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a week as a kid or a better way to give a child inspiration and a love of nature.

I’d get up just before dawn and walk as far as I could before anyone on the mountain had woken up, and I’d experience the forest in complete solitude, just me and the nocturnal animals going home for the night.

One morning I was standing on the edge of a meadow on a sunny day watching the wind blowing through the trees. It was a hard wind and I was mesmerized by all of it. A cloud blew in and in the space of thirty seconds, I watched as the sunshine was covered up, and I was in the middle of a cold, dark morning. I didn’t think it could happen like that, but it did.

I decided at that moment I was a writer. I don’t know why except that the inspiration hit me then. Thinking of nothing, my brain was overwhelmed and the quiet made me understand something bigger about myself and the world.

That’s a great memory for me, but I think of that now as the kind of epiphany and the kind of circumstances that a child needs. I hope I can do more with less now. I hope that every silent moment opens the potential for larger thinking and better clarity. I hope that I don’t need an entire forest to understand who I am.

On the other hand, the forest is always there waiting for me if I do.