POWER OF SOLITUDE~

I struggled the majority of my life with feelings of always wanting and loving to be alone. It's a natural struggle for anyone with genuine desire to live in complete solitude, I suppose, since everyone is born into the world by people and most everyone is surrounded by people from that moment on as they grow and mature. Guilt for wanting so much to be alone so often inevitably grated uncomfortably on my thought processes, but I was always able to focus concentration so much more effectively when alone. The power of solitude was obvious to me.

 

The most difficult part of my struggle to be alone was actually finding ways to be alone and being allowed to be alone. Growing up in an active, loving family which relocated frequently and traveled on road trip style weekend and summer vacations a lot, we were always doing something together as a team. Involvement was expected and there were definitely fantastic rewards gained from our collective involvement in so many family activities. We all were able to see amazing sights and experienced exciting things together, building a tremendous base of unique, cherished memories which were as educational as they were entertaining. But no matter where we all went or what we were doing together I was always gazing outward, wondering what fun it would be to be in those places and doing those things entirely alone. Eventually, my parents and grandparents introduced a vehicle which allowed me to find a way to be alone in my head if not one hundred percent physically alone. That vehicle was music.

When I was eight years old, my maternal grandparents gave our family several guitars as gifts and I immediately began playing with them. Strumming and plucking the strings on the guitars produced extraordinary tactile feedback sensations I soon became addicted too and for the next three years I spent a lot of free time learning to play. 

When I was eleven, I was introduced to live symphony orchestral music performance in an astounding structure of architectural and acoustic performance venue engineering in downtown Houston, Texas.  Built as a monument to a man who died the day before I was born, Jones Hall had opened one year before we moved there. After spending the first decade of my life living in various small towns in Oklahoma and one medium sized city in east Texas, Houston was an exciting place to live and that musical performance by the Houston Symphony sent nonstop chills up and down my spine so intense I almost passed out from the sensations of experience several times as they played. It inspired me to sign up for orchestra class the next year in junior high school to play cello and tactile sensations of that instruments bowed and plucked strings were as amazing as those of the guitars I had been playing. Dreams of someday becoming a member of the Houston Symphony to perform in Jones Hall dominated my thoughts.

 

It was in that junior high orchestra class where I made what I consider to be my first major mistake in life. I didn't practice hard enough to hold onto first chair cello and was beat out by a new student who had much better chops than I did. She blew into class late in the school year and blew me right out of first chair during auditions for next year during the final six weeks of school. It hurt a lot and I struggled to hold back tears as our orchestra teacher announced first chair musicians for the next year's class. Mrs. Durfee saw my tears and I could tell she felt bad for me at that moment, but she was a tough, strong teacher–one of the few I ever liked in my public school career–so I didn't let any tears spill out, somehow blinking them all back. Instead I doubled down and practiced my ass of until we suddenly packed up again and moved to Louisiana at the close of the school year.

There was no orchestra class in the school I attended in Lafayette but my love of music continued to blossom and when I officially became a teenager the following summer, my parents gave me a sparkling new Gibson 12-string guitar as a birthday gift. I had been tinkering around with some Sears Silvertone four and six-string guitars they had received as gifts from my mother's parents and I had done pretty well learning to play them after learning to play cello in Houston. That 12-string guitar was a professional grade instrument, though, and made a world of difference in the musical sounds I could produce with it. I was hooked.

We moved to west Texas that same summer and my parents purchased a 5-string banjo I immediately latched onto. I had been a fan of The Beverly Hillbillies for the intro music and occasional guest appearances of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs as much as the goofy humor of the show since it first aired in 1962. By then Hee Haw was on the air featuring the astounding banjo and guitar picking of Roy Clark and Larry McNeely was performing his mind blowing melodic 5-string banjo compositions on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour as well. My fascination and addiction to music rapidly mounted.

 

I found a record store in Midland selling Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs albums and books, bought as many as I could, studied the books and played the records on the player slowed down to 16 rpm, tuned the banjo down low to match the lower pitches emitted by the slowly revolving records and began picking out tunes like Cripple Creek and Foggy Mountain Breakdown by ear. I also began learning Classical Gas composed and performed by Mason Williams backed by The Wrecking Crew on the 12-string guitar and by the time summer arrived at the end of the school year, I was banging out those three tunes almost at the tempos they were being performed by Pete, Earl and Mason.

Living in west Texas, the entrancing sounds of latin guitar music began filtering into my consciousness through players from Mexico, some local players as well as popular famous performers like ten-fingered wizard José Feliciano playing Malgueña. I bought a copy of The Astounding 12-String Guitar of Glen Campbell and began trying to learn how he did all that he did on that album. From there on, everything related to playing guitar and banjo began to pervade my thoughts and dreams and continue to do so to this day.

After completing some basic college coursework, I spent a couple of years in music school learning the finer art of playing baroque and romantic music on classical guitar. I did well enough to be invited to study one summer in Spain under the tutelage of Andrés Segovia before he died about a decade later, but I didn't have the $1500 required to go to Spain and dropped out of college a second time to work in construction as a weldor for a couple of years.

So what does all of this history of music in my life have to do with the power of solitude? Music was the vehicle which allowed me to finally experience the bliss of solitude within my mind. I fell so hard for music and spent so much time practicing guitar and banjo alone up in my bedroom every free waking hour I could that my parents began worrying I had started using drugs. I hadn't and I wouldn't waste precious time drinking alcohol or smoking weed until I was twenty one years old, but man was music a wonderful thing to be totally and hopelessly addicted to in the meantime. And it sufficed as sole portal into a mental universe of solitude for the next three decades until the end of my first horrific marriage when I began craving physical solitude as well.

 

Upon escaping from that living nightmare spanning seven surreal years wasted attending to psychotic demands of an ungrateful spouse, I celebrated with a long road trip vacation traveling alone in a shiny new 2-door 4x4 Chevy Tahoe Sport packed full of food, camping gear and musical instruments with surf kayak strapped on top all the way from my apartment in downtown Dallas to Port McNeill near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, BC and back. While there kayaking amongst majestic pods of orca feeding on salmon in Johnstone Strait, unbeknownst to me, opportunity to take another vector toward a more physically immersive life of solitude was starting to take shape as my parents had just located a prime piece of rural, unimproved real estate for sale while they were vacationing in New Mexico. 

 

Returning from the extended road trip, they told me all about it when I stopped by to visit with them before returning to toxic life and work in Dallas. We talked about the possibility of purchasing it and I eagerly latched onto the chance, ultimately buying into a pair of remote parcels situated well away from civilization at a very affordable price. The parcels were separated by a primitive county access road at the end of what was more jeep trail than improved roadway with the largest parcel abutting more than 1.5 million acres of national forest and protected wilderness lands. The nearest of two small villages were four and eight miles away and all of the nearest incorporated cities were more than thirty to forty miles away. It seemed perfect for someone seeking significant physical solitude in life. 

 

Before purchase of the property was finalized, I camped on it as soon as I was able to get a few more days off, hiked alone all around and across every acre of it for several days and came to the conclusion that–without a doubt–it was where I wanted to live and work out the final years of my life. Formulating a still wild plan to eventually move onto the land, build a home and start a home-based business of my own there where I could settle firmly ensconced in glorious physical solitude to pursue interests of my own rather than those of others, I returned to Dallas and immediately began an intensive job search closer to the property. After eight years (along with fortuitously significant advances in cellular networking technology) and surviving another failed marriage I very stupidly stepped into before finally moving onto the property for good, I began living and working in supreme solitude here at last, and every bit of that terrible stretch of time and effort wasted attending to insatiable needs of a second ungrateful spouse over my own never dissuaded me.

Now, power of solitude energizes everything I do.