solivagant

“Solivagant” by Ele Davis

Do you go alone? Do you step out the door – of your home, your hotel, your hostel, your hospital – driven by some vague motive, and put foot ahead of foot, seeing the street or the trail stretch ahead of you, the buildings or trees bleeding past in perspective, wanting to move and keep moving, to be the river through life? To see people and other creatures and walk through the waves of their breath and feel the hum of their bodies and minds as they move past? To wonder as you wander out under the sky? Are you thirsty for everything and nothing to be significant? Are you solivagant?

Solivagant almost rhymes with significant, though it’s not related. Significant comes from Latin for ‘sign-making’ or ‘meaning-making’; solivagant comes from Latin for ‘alone-going’. You know soli from solus, known to us as solo. Vagant comes from vago, ‘I wander’, also seen in vagabond; it has wandered far and wide, making, among others, French vague ‘wave’ and English vague ‘vague’. It looks like Swedish våga ‘dare’ but is not related. It may also lead you to vagrant, a word for a less raffish sort of vagabond, which came by way of Old French and Frankish and Old High German from the same ancient Proto-Indo-European root that gives us walk but, oddly, seems not to be the same root as gave us vago – though we don’t know where they came from before that: paths converge and diverge. How many people do you see as you walk through the city that you think you have not seen before? What are the odds that you really have not previously passed near them?

Solivagant also looks a bit like solvent, something that dissolves, something that forms a solution. It’s not related, of course, but when I am stressed and feel contained, I can walk (or run) to dissolve it and to find a solution. “Solivagant” also sounds somewhat like “so live again,” and when my world has stopped moving, and I am encased in the concrete, deadened, I can say “so live again” and go to see life again.

I do like being with another. I even like walking with another. But I have always been solivagant. I have always ridden the wave of daring to go alone, a mind and eyes and legs swerving through the masses and venturing to fields and forests.

And you?

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