Relinquishing the Hermit

I think I’m a solitary creature, unsocial, a hermitess. I love living alone (with dogs.) I’ve typically endured more than enjoyed my housemates, during any era in my life. Sadly, I didn’t understand this about myself when I was trying to understand the “why isn’t this marriage working?” problems of my youth. I’m pretty good at long-distance and remote (writing!) relationships, but face-to-face, I’m never exactly sure how to relate to people. I can be amusing, or an organizer, but that’s exhausting for everyone. I usually prefer solitude, books, writing, dogs, and gardens over human chitchat. However, two glaring contradictions rise in protest as I think about this.

First, my current circles are huge. I’m on the fringes of many circles, and have many useful relationships with people based on shared interests. I’m important to people in many circles. I’ve lived in the same town a long time. But, that’s not the main thing that’s bugging me.

No, the strange thing is the sheer guessable quantity of known-by-name persons I have known in my lifetime. That population is greater than I can grok, overwhelms me if I seriously consider my long life of peopling. I’m staggering with evidence of this today, because I dragged the last of the bound journals in from the garage. With them is a stack of index cards, about two hundred of them, on which at various times in the 80’s, I tried to catalog my human interactions by name. Some cards contain nothing but a name, now meaningless to me. I apparently once knew someone named Joyce Dahms. She’s a mystery. Lots of these cards have nothing but a name, and yet many of those undescribed names recall a person who was important, sometimes huge, for me. Others have nice little notes, about where I met them, what they looked like, or personality traits. Classes, jobs; pretty, rough; loud, shy, funny. The notes seldom help me remember someone if the name doesn’t click into place first.

When I was twenty-three, I hand-wrote a list of names on two sheets of notebook paper. There were more than three hundred names, representing everyone I could remember from the time I first began learning people’s names. Beginning in childhood; Jackie G–, who lived across the street in Sinnemahoning, PA when I was five. This list went from PA names to WA names, tracking the Air Force marriage, our friends in Texas and Germany, into my brief real estate career and then, the early years of my bartender life. That list has been lost for a long time now.

Cuss the bus, where I lived a hermit live on and off for twenty years.  The girl is now older than I was then.

Cuss the bus, where I lived my “hermit” life, on and off for twenty years. Barely room for one person! The niece-child is now about five years older than I was then.  Lost the dog in 1987.

I’ve grieved the loss of that list, have searched hard for it in some moves, but feel resigned. One of the worst times in my mostly lovely life with Will was when he would not relax and let me take the time to sort my papers from the bus when I did my archival burnings there on Harvey’s land. This reminds me that I want to contact the Skagit land trust folks and visit those forests. Oh my gosh, my circles overflow.


Relinquishing the Hermit — 1 Comment

  1. I love this picture! It looks like it was taken on my parents property, where a portion of your “hermit life” took place. Or at least in the general area… I was so blessed to have such a wonderful childhood, surrounded by love and endlessly fascinating (and tolerant!!!) adults. I will never forget camping outside of CUSS with my siblings – until it rained, flooded the tent, and all 3 of us soaking wet and cold children invaded your space in the middle of the night! Or reading “The Valley of the Horses” for the first time – still one of my all time favorite series. The stories could go on for hours… or pages… lol.
    Love Always,
    The Niece-child

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