Tag Archives: photographs

solitude

Laurie Anderson said,

Paradise
Is exactly like
Where you are right now
Only much much
Better.

I have a similar thought about solitude: Solitude is exactly like loneliness, only much much better.

To put it another way, the difference between loneliness and solitude is that you hate the one and want the other.

I spent many years in corrosive loneliness, single, unattached, walking miles by myself hoping to find someone else but unable or unwilling or afraid to reach out. Now, I happily go for long walks or runs by myself, because I know there is someone there for me when I get back. I can be by myself because I know I have friends who will spend time with me. Being apart from others is no longer a subtraction; it is an addition.

Solitude, etymologically, means exactly the same thing as loneliness: sol- as in sole, solo, solivagant, plus -itude; lonely plus -ness, where lonely is lone plus -ly and lone in its turn is shortened from alone, which is from all one. (The difference between only and lonely, etymologically, is just that the latter has the last remnant of all.) Why have they gained different tones? I don’t know for certain, but I have a guess: poetry. Solitude comes from French, which took it (altered) from Latin, and poets for a long time, especially in the educated and courtly traditions, preferred the classically derived words. Lonely comes from base old English, the language of the commoners when, after the Norman conquest, the rich spoke French. Rich, well-educated people can afford solitude; poor peasants are stuck with being lonely.

There’s no shortage of poetry on solitude; just search “solitude” at poetryfoundation.org and see. You will also find enough entries for solitude in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Some of it is very much the kind of mood I like, when I like that kind of mood:

That inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude

—William Wordsworth

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

—Henry David Thoreau

She would not exchange her solitude for anything. Never again to be forced to move to the rhythms of others.

—Tillie Olsen

For those of us who have been too much isolated, solitude is not available, only loneliness. But for those of us who are well supported and have as much social contact as we need – or perhaps even more – solitude can be a sweet gift, a refreshing time away.

And it doesn’t need to be in the far countryside. It can be in the middle of a city. If you can be alone in a crowd, you can have solitude in the heart of a city.

I wish you as much solitude as you desire, and as little loneliness as you want.

nuit blanche

Nuit blanche. French. Two words, one syllable each: /nɥi blɑ̃ʃ/. When spoken aloud, soothing. When whispered, like an invitation to something secret. It means, literally, ‘white night’.

How can a night be white? What if the night is never black? Is it a night in white satin, never reaching the end? If a night is white, it can’t end because it can’t become light. When dawn comes, how will you know it’s dawn? Is there any special art to it? Does a white knight appear? Is the knight in white satin? Continue reading

street

Continue reading

alley

Let’s go, let’s go down now, let’s go down the alley
It’s long and it’s tight like an aisle in a galley
It’s close and it’s shady and wet like a valley
Allez-y, love, rally: we’re going to go dally Continue reading

Dublin

Dublin. Dubh linn.

Dubh, say it to rhyme with “groove,” means ‘dark’ or ‘black’.

Linn, almost rhymes with “sing” but is really like a slice out of “well in your soul,” means ‘pool’.

Linn, said no differently, also means ‘a span of time’. Also means ‘with us’. And so can mean ‘belonging to us’. Continue reading

Cork

A cork is an important thing. You don’t taste the cork itself – you don’t want to taste it! – but it keeps what’s in the bottle fresh. You have to get past the stopper and taste what you can pour out.

The word cork, once you open up the etymology, comes from Latin cortex, meaning ‘bark’, a tree’s interface with the outer world, because corks are made from the bark of the cork oak. Cortex is also the word for the skin of your brain, its involuted outer layer, the part that is so important in consciousness and memory, your awareness of your interfaces with the outer world.

Cork, the city in Ireland, is not named after cork bark. Its Irish name is Corcaigh – pronounced like “corky” in most of Ireland but a bit closer to “corkage” in Cork’s own region. It means ‘swamp’ or ‘marsh’ – well, it’s the dative form, so it means ‘to the swamp’. Which sounds like an instruction to go find a wet place. Continue reading

Killarney

Sometimes memory and experience sanctify small details, even the dark and spiky ones. A little thing can make a big difference, and a gap may be a high point.

After we left Dingle in the late afternoon, we headed to Killarney for our overnight stay. A friend of mine had assured me that if I had time to kill or just wanted to take it slow, Killarney would be the place. Continue reading

Dingle, Daingean

I make an audio version of each one of my blog posts for my $2-a-month subscribers on Patreon. I’m giving everyone this audio version for free so you can hear how the Irish words sound – and to entice you into subscribing. Listen to it (and subscribe) at patreon.com/posts/22182846

You know you’re in Ireland. You’re on a shoulderless one-lane road pasted to the side of the greenest cliff you’ve ever seen and somehow you’re still driving on the left. And the signs (such as the one telling large vehicles “TURN BACK NOW”) are in Irish first (“Cas Siar Anois” – for the curious, you say that like “cuss sheer a nish”), and you know you’re in the Gaeltacht (the Irish-speaking region) because some of the signs are in Irish only. Which can be a bit of an uphill struggle for some people, especially when it’s the only way to get by. Continue reading

Moher

When people come to Ireland, they see the towns, of course. Dublin, naturally. Galway or Cork, perhaps. A few others. But many people want to see more. In particular, they want to see Moher.

What is Moher? The mother of all cliffs – all Irish cliffs, anyway. The western edge of the emerald isle, breaking off and tumbling into the sea. Up top it may be coated with a mossy mohair of grass that has moo-ers for mowers, but the drop-off gets to 214 metres (702 feet), straight into the waters of the Atlantic. And of course someone (named O’Brien) built a stone tower on top of the highest point just to get a better view. Or to impress people. Continue reading

Galway

I’ve just gotten back from a week in Ireland with Aina, in case you were wondering where I’d gotten to. We saw a lot of the country and I took a lot of pictures. And the first county and city we unpacked our bags in was Galway. Continue reading