Thursday, October 27, 2011


Kathy is in London.  The only good thing about her going to London is that I have some rare time alone in our house.  Except that this trip, A came down with a cold right before Kathy left, and was by my side for the first two days that Kathy was gone.  Yesterday, she didn't seem all that sick, actually, considering that she did yoga, baked cookies, and went to the library.  With that, Kathy said, "Send her to school, have a day to yourself to do whatever you want."  So I gave myself permission for a day to myself, doing whatever I wanted.  And taking pictures of it.

With a love of solitude bordering on misanthropy, I could not wait to spend the day alone.  It wasn't so much what I did that was the indulgence, it was the company.  As in, none.

First, I made myself a real breakfast -- which oddly included eggs, which I ordinarily don't like much. 

I did a few chores (always, being a grownup, there are chores) and took a very hot shower with some heavenly body scrub that was a gift from my sister.  I allowed myself desert with lunch, and time after lunch reading my book on the Narcolepsy Couch.  We have a couch in our dining nook that used to live in my New York City apartment.  My sister called me while she stayed in that apartment for a few days, about a year ago.  "There's something wrong with your couch.  I can't sit on it without falling asleep."  It's true.  It cost about $150 from Jennifer Convertibles, but it is so comfortable that it's pretty much impossible to sit on it for any length of time without getting sleeeeeeeeeeeepy.  Hence, the Narcolepsy Couch.

My plans for a day alone hit a little snag, because the kids' dad couldn't take them after school.  The babysitter agreed to pick them up from school and take them to their swimming lessons about an hour later.  I decided to head out so that I could maintain the solitude I had been craving.

I live, as it turns out, on the Long Island Sound.  Vivian Swift, a local writer and artist, said this about the Sound:

I was born and raised inland.  That's why there's hardly a beach anywhere in the world -- the Riviera, California, Brazil, North Africa, Mexico -- that doesn't bore me after a day or two.  Because compared to the complicated, interesting geography of the woods and mountains where I grew up, a beach (flat, wide, plain) doesn't have much there there.
But then I came to live on the Long Island Sound.  Here is a coast that has no straight lines and all the moods and wilderness of an old growth forest.  For every one mile that the sea gull here flies across the water's edge, there are six miles of jagged, twisting shore on the ground.  I can wander these beaches forever.*
When I read this, I found it disappointing that I had never actually spent any time investigating the Sound's ragged coastline.  The thing is, it was pouring.  Undeterred, I duct taped over a hole in my rain boots, dug my raincoat out of our camping supplies, and headed out to the Marshlands Conservancy.

When I arrived at the park, I went into the nature center, and asked for a trail map.  I gladly paid a dollar for one of the highest quality trail maps I've received from a New York park.  "You're in luck," said the park ranger.  "With this rain, it's the perfect day to be here.  You'll probably be the only one."  Luck, indeed.

The first part of my walk took me through the woods, where the changing fall leaves looked luminescent in the rain.  The marsh was strangely beautiful, misty and grey.  I spent hours wandering, finally reaching the shore of the Long Island Sound.  About the time I decided to head back, the rain started falling harder.  I decided to take the more direct route back to my car, through the meadow. 

In the meadow, I was shocked to find deer, close and staring directly at me.  All were wary, except for one:  a lone female, completely unafraid.  It was this that made me think hunting weapons are so unfair.  She looked at me, sized up my two legs and decided I couldn't move fast enough to get her.  I had no claws or sharp teeth.  I was wholly unthreatening, as long as I didn't move closer, so she stretched out her white throat and went back to chomping leaves.  Imagine her surprise, if I had shot her.

Instead, I said hello to my solitary sister, and walked by.  I could feel her staring at my back as I walked away.  She had judged correctly.

Arriving home marked the end of my day of solitude.  The kids were there, dumping out backpacks and asking for homework help.  They got ready to go to their father's for dinner, while I retreated to a local cafe, but it's owned by a friend, who stopped over to chat as I uploaded my pictures from the day.  Another friend is meeting me here for dinner in an hour, and then A comes home to spend the night.  And that is that.

I was disappointed, but unsurprised, at how difficult it was to carve out time alone when I was working full time.  But it is entirely shocking to me how difficult it is to carve out time alone when I'm not working.  So the time alone is my day of indulgence.  I don't need to go to a spa, or out to a fancy dinner, or to eat rich chocolate (although I was amused at how much of my day of indulgence involved food treats).  I just need a few hours on the shore of the Long Island Sound, and a rainy day.

* from When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put, by Vivan Swift (Bloomsbury, 2008).

1 comment: