Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 21, 2008

Solitude and Company

Recently my brother-in-law (Hey, Bruce!) emailed me that I’d inspired him to write some poems – on the subway, mostly – something he hadn’t done in a long while. And a few days before, a friend and former yoga teacher told me that she’d written a biographical poem, after listening to me talk about them.

Sometimes I feel awash in talk, talk, talk, but forget how we actually learn from each other. Of course that’s good, but I’ve moved a bit to retreat mode this week, after feeling refreshed from visits with my daughter, sister, nieces, and shorter times with friends. Pre being a mom, pre getting married, I used to spend more time in silence. Shy for two and a half decades, it was becoming a teacher that forced me to change. I remember my first day in front of twenty-six seventh graders thinking, how did I get here, and then, you’d better say something, sweetheart, or they will destroy you. And so I talked, and listened, and before too long even sometimes laughed.

Now silence or company is often a choice. I love spending time with family and friends, but I also love being with the dogs on the porch, writing. I complained about too much alone time when my college teaching stopped at the beginning of the summer, but now I’m sorry to see these long days end. Silence can prickle, but if I sit it out my thoughts do change. Surprises come, which is one of the best parts of writing. I love that where-did-that-thought-come-from moment. Feeling a little wiser than my ordinary mom-in-the-kitchen-slicing-cucumbers-and-talking-on-the-phone self. Or even my teacher self. So I’ve got a few more days before I have to sit down with my books and lesson plans, time to savor those gifts of silence, and remember they’ll come back.



  1. I love this.
    And you.

  2. I love you, too! I’m excited to be thinking about you soaking up sun and inspiration and good friend vibes. Have a wonderful journey!

  3. There is such fullness in silence. I love how you listen to the gifts that are revealed.

  4. Like you, I enjoy both – solitude and company. I’ve been happy to have a mix this summer, and thinking that I need to take more steps to have occasional company, since my preference tends toward solitude, and I think it not wise to be always so alone.

  5. Thank you — trying!

  6. I wouldn’t have pegged you as leaning toward so much solitude — maybe from hearing your description of taking on middle schoolers for an hour or so of reveling in poetry to wind up a field trip. But of course you are a poet, so then not so surprising. I guess our little world is full of closet introverts. And I agree not so wise to be too much alone. We will be here to say, um, Kelly, if you start wearing white and sending baskets of gingerbread from the second story window and tying up numbered poems with ribbons and tucking them in a chest.

  7. I’m no Emily. But I do worry about “cackling”, as Pratchett uses the term in his Tiffany Aching books.

  8. I love the idea of silence and company being a matter of choice. I know how lucky I am, compared to many people, that I’m writing at home, that I have my own writing space, that I live up in the woods, and yet there are days when I think…where did that choice go? Maybe it’s just a matter of making sure I see it and use it. 🙂

  9. sometimes the grass is greener and sometimes it’s a trick of the light. or something like that…

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