Today the Christmas decorations come down (I've always found this day depressing, I get used to the glint of tinsel and fairy lights). It's very cold here in the Black Country, but beautiful for once, with everything smothered and refined by snow. The view from the train station this morning was breathtaking, the sky heavy and pink, snow feathering down like interference on an old TV. The canal that was frozen hard yesterday, encrusted with harder previously frozen and fractured ice, was today completely hidden, the towpath and canal was merely a dip running alongside the railway track.
I feel like my boat has been blown off course this week, and now I'm struggling to get it back on track. I was bought for Christmas (among other things) a book by Sara Maitland called A Book of Silence which exactly matches my mood at the moment. I've always liked being on my own, but lately I really crave my own company. Perhaps, like in Sara Maitland's book, it's my 'certain age' that's driving this need to 'vant to be alone'. I'm not 100% convinced about the age thing though, I know many women my own age who like to chat (my Mum loves Loose Women, women of a 'certain age' every one, and not a shrinking violet amongst them). I've never been chatty, I'm starting to feel quite guilty about it. I'm starting to feel I let people down by not being what they expect me to be, like when I'm called 'love' in shops by total strangers, often younger than myself. I've never been anyone's 'love' and doubt that I ever will be. Not in the cosy sense of the word in any case. I've always been solitary. I suppose (like many people) I need a Lotto win to make the solitude possible.
I watched a really moving film last week, North Face a German film about an attempt just before the war to climb the North Face of the Eiger. It was unremittingly realistic and harrowing, yet beautiful in the bleakest sense of the word. Another book that currently has one of my bookmarks travelling slowly through it (slower than the traffic crawling towards Burnt Tree Island) is Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind. I read his Wild Places the year before last and loved it. He writes beautifully and I envy his intellect and his exploratory toughness.
Solitude is so often looked upon by society as being 'wrong' but it must come naturally to so many people. Sara Maitland says in her book that people called her selfish for wanting to be alone, but with enough money in her bank account to rent a remote cottage, did it really matter what people thought? People have done a lot more harmful things than removed themselves from society. Being solitary harms no one. It may even be fruitful (in Maitland's case solitude allowed her to produce this book, many writers and artists have turned their solitude into objects of beauty and fascination). There is just so much talk in this world, so much noise. And so little meaning.
It's been a long time since I drew myself. I always look so miserable! Here's what I've done this evening, in the growing dark.