We talk of communing with Nature, but ’tis with ourselves we commune… Nature furnishes the conditions – the solitude – and the soul furnishes the entertainment.John Burrough
A lonely, broken down house sat at the edge of the woods, its windows boarded, its roof partially exposed to the elements, its occupants roosting in the rafters or hiding in secret holes bored into the walls. The house could feel the ghosts of past occupants still wandering its hallways.
It wasn’t always so. Seventy years ago a stranger came to the woods, felled trees and lovingly constructed the house with hard work and fine craftsmanship. He had married, raised a family, made the house a loving comfortable home and took care of its every need for decades. But time moves on, as did the children, and when the parents died the house was boarded up, left alone and forgotten. Except for the forest creatures.
A lonely, broken down man, haunted by past ghosts stumbled through the forest in pouring rain, trying to exorcise the demons from his mind. Uncaring of the rain penetrating his torn clothing he cried to the heavens in anguish, cursing God for his misfortunes. Tripping on a tree root, he made no effort to rise, but wallowed in self pity and remorse as the rain washed away his tears.
After a while the rain ceased and the sun found a gap between the trees to shine its light on him, filling him with sudden warmth and hope. His anger spent, but feeling very weak, he attempted to rise and continue moving forward. No destination in mind, just mindless wandering. No one to witness his plight but the forest creatures.
As the shadows grew longer, drooping from weariness, weak from hunger and thirst, he entered the periphery of the forest and spied a derelict house. He slipped and slithered towards the house as the heavens opened once more showering him with its blessing. He pulled a board from the window and clambered inside, plopping to the floor in exhaustion. He passed out and the next he knew the sun was filtering through the missing board on the window.
A pigeon cooed from above and a small creature scrambled across his leg. He lay on the floor, eyes closed, listening, a long lost feeling of peace entering his soul. Stirring, he ripped the boards from the windows, letting in the light and proceeded to explore the house. Yes. This will do very well, he mumbled, a place to call my own, a place to heal, to reflect, to gather my strength. With a little work I can make this a comfortable home. He felt alive once more.
The lonely house sensing the eagerness of the man knew it would not be lonely anymore, it would be cared for by the man, as it in turn would shelter and harbor the man from the storms of life. Perhaps the forest creatures would stay as well. All were welcome under its roof.
There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite infinity.Emily Dickinson