The psychotherapist Carl Jung, after seeing a photo of the Arctic explorer Augustine Courtauld, remarked that Courtauld's was the face of a man 'stripped of his persona, his public self stolen, leaving his true self naked before the world.' For women, this is doubly true: a woman's life is one lived under surveillance, a system of inner and outer regulations even more restrictive than a man's. Even a simple stroll down the sidewalk becomes an exercise in self-loathing. Suck in your stomach. Straighten your hem. (What if it rides up, exposing you?) Every shop window offers a glimpse of your own reflection. Adjust, adjust, adjust.So where are all the women hermits? [more inside]
It's enough to drive a woman crazy (and isn't this what we're always being accused of?). It's enough to drive any woman to the woods.
When Annie Dillard wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, she didn't think anyone would want to read a memoir by a "Virginia housewife". So she left her domestic life out of the book - and turned her surroundings into a wilderness. The Thoreau of the Suburbs.
Glenn Gould's North is an essay about the radio documentaries composed by Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould. The most famous are the three "contrapuntal" documentaries which comprise The Solitude Trilogy [available on Spotify and can be purchased on iTunes]. What is contrapuntal radio? The Glenn Gould Foundation explained in series of short podcasts, and a glimpse of Gould's scripts and diagrams may aid understanding, as well as quotes by Gould and others about The Solitude Trilogy. Many have responded to The Solitude Trilogy, from the perspectives of a hermit, mennonite, and a collage artist, whose collage series can be seen here. As the title suggests, The Solitude Trilogy deals with isolation, quietude, loneliness, seclusion and solitude in modern life, but Gould also made documentaries on a variety of musical subjects, such as Richard Strauss and sixties pop singer Petula Clark. Most of his documentaries, including The Solitude Trilogy, are available for listening on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Links below. [more inside]
GQ: The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit. "For nearly thirty years, a phantom haunted the woods of Central Maine. Unseen and unknown, he lived in secret, creeping into homes in the dead of night and surviving on what he could steal. To the spooked locals, he became a legend - or maybe a myth. They wondered how he could possibly be real. Until one day last year, the hermit came out of the forest." [more inside]
"Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you've been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It's hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that's one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life's mystery…" Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy
"Maybe I am extra aware of it because I am currently visiting with my parents, and they have a tendency to shout to each other between floors, and I have a tendency to regress, and suddenly, just as when I was a teenager, all I want is to have some space of my own, where I can read, and think, in private."
Silent retreats’ rising popularity poses a challenge: How to handle the quiet.
Being Alone. A good discussion on the upside of solitude, including cites to some research experiments. It's even on a single page.
Why I'm Alone: "People ask me why I'm still alone, and why I don't seek to date much, eight years after my husband died. I thought about it the other day, and came up with a few of the reasons."
"I didn't intend to go without sex for a decade and a half. But celibacy isn't something you necessarily plan."
Life and death of an urban recluse Odd and beautiful newspaper story.