Does it take all kinds? I hope so, because lately I’ve been feeling I am one of a kind more often while everyone around me is falling into line, into place, wearing a kind of uniform – as if they are all ready to work out, run a mile, or hike for a few hours – all drinking the same kind of coffee and using their cell phones as if it were another appendage, one required for survival.
It’s not the way I operate and it’s starting to be an issue – with my friends. It starts with what they think is a simple suggestion, a no-brainer, let’s stop at Starbucks and get a coffee. Do I give them my whole speech about burnt coffee beans and cancer, or just suggest we stop at the Boulangerie instead? When we are having a lovely chat over lunch and they pull out their cell phone and start texting, I’m at a loss. Do I point out it’s rude, or politely ask who they’re communicating with? After a while it’s too exhausting and I just want to be alone for a while, read a book, make a cup of my favorite coffee with beans from Italy.
But I can’t keep up being alone forever, even though I can go for longer than most people. Sound selfish? Okay, but I enjoy my own company and I’m not hurting anyone, so I indulge myself. And yes, even that recluse at Walden Pond went into town once a week to visit his friends. But he had the good fortune to live near (and within) an entire community of kindred spirits, Transcendentalists, each of whom carved a unique path expressing their notion of the divine residing in Nature. How lucky. Still, he returned to his rustic cabin to be alone.
Thoreau chose Concord, Massachusetts, which was, at the time, a rural community. He chose those people, alike in their view of the world, but an intellectual island initially. After years of conversing, writing, and painting, the Transcendentalists’ ideas spread widely over geography and time and affected how we see the elements of nature. They pointed to the elegance and beauty in the rivers, the forests, the meadows, and the seasons, the sunsets, and the noon day sun. They used their art, poetry, writing as vehicles to express the way they experienced the natural world.
Thoreau lived alone on Walden Pond, chopped wood, cooked his meals and wrote his thoughts, which became classic books, still read today. Maybe it does take all kinds.