People & Culture

The loneliness of wilderness

  • Aug 05, 2012
  • 270 words
  • 2 minutes
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Aching loneliness. That’s what I feel right now after several weeks alone on the Yukon River paddling north. Only a couple more days until I reach Dawson City at the Klondike Valley. But the loneliness is gripping my heart like a fiend.
It’s as if my bones are made out of spongey material and a sickly, oozing liquid loneliness is slowly creeping through every fibre. Sigh.

I know it’s just a phase that I’ll push through. Still, it’s reality right now. And its awful gnawing power is relentless. I miss my family so much.

You know, a 1,500-kilometre solo wilderness canoe trip like this — heading to the Arctic Circle — is both romantic and wonderful much of the time. I have time to watch birds circling round and round on afternoon thermals. Or listen for the bubbling sound that follows behind my canoe. Or draw the sweet smell of wood smoke into my lungs. In many ways it’s the scent of freedom.

The solitude and silence let you experience life up close — away from the frantic and endless clanging din of the 21st century.

But we’re not made to live solo lives. We’re made to live in community with other people. To rub shoulders, to love, to argue, to cry together.

A single log in a campfire will not burn for long before going out. But two, three or four will burn brightly, casting light and casting giggles in all directions.

And so this solitude and loneliness help teach me an important life lesson — one I knew already. And that’s good. Even if it hurts.


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