Finding Beauty In Solitude

Many of my experiences over the summer taught me the art of being alone. I wrote and read a lot about solitude and the pains and virtues associated with it, and spent a lot of time in the saddle of my bike purposely directed away from all the people I know. While I have enjoyed the company of fellow travellers over the past few months, it has not been conducive to putting any of those lessons into practice. Today, overcome by boredom and repetition, I went out to find solitude.

The Pai river runs through the town and straight South through Thailand, and is a two minute walk from the cottage. Up close, it’s not a pretty thing. There’s rotting, brown shrubs either growing out of or decomposing in the water, I’m not sure which. It has lumpy movement, which suggests to me that it’s both shallow and rocky. It’s relatively fast-moving and that, combined with what I assume is a muddy, rocky bottom, churns the water into the same brown-green of the decomposing trees.

I made my way down to a bamboo raft floating precariously just down the slope from the graffitied bridge. Books and pens in my backpack, I tested the stability of the raft and, when it only groaned a little under my weight, I lay down following the poles’ horizontal distribution.

With my eyes closed, the heat weighing heavy on my shoulders, and my shoulder blades making sweaty imprints on the bamboo, I listened to the bubbling river beside me.

Edward Abbey remained unopened as I took advantage of such a rare moment. Even the black ants as long as my third toe were becoming my friends; but the red ones, whose space I invaded, left tiny, angry red bites on the space between my shirt and my shorts. I stayed on the raft trying to guess the time by the position of the gradually arcing sun. Every time I thought it might be too hot, the sun would disappear behind a cloud and offer some relief, and I’d have to stay a little longer. When the heat finally became too much, I gradually made my way back to the cottage where Colleen was getting ready for a massage and Frank, the ridiculous-looking pug, was wheezing by the door.

The sun has gone down enough now to cast a shadow on the hillside and my brow has finally unfurled from a full day of squinting. The clean smell of the evening is in the air and everything seems to have slowed.

With my belly now full of curry and a handful of candy, I’m keeping myself warm with a cup of chai while stealing quick glances toward the night sky. I’m still not used to it. The scene reminds me of the skies that I took for granted in Squamish. I think I’ll skip over stones with a smile on my lips on the way to bed tonight.