Recently I road from Zhaotong City in Northern Yunnan to Huize, a county to the south. The ride started along the Zhaodai Highway, a "level 2" asphault road, straight and level, cutting through rusty, terraced, rolling hills dotted with small villages each with a mosque or two, prayers sounding from loudspeakers echoing between noon hillsides. Where a large sign reading "steep grade next 20 kilometers" hung over the road, the highway split into separate 2 lane roads and entered into a long curved tunnel. At the other end we could see the wide, smooth highway gently snaking it's way downward across long bridges spanning deep gorges. The next 7 kilometers passed in minutes. With more downhill riding ahead, we got off the highway at dusty Hui village called Tianba and ate lunch. From there we proceeded down a steep winding dirt path down through barren terraces, past a middle school to the old asphault highway 213. The scent of pear and peach blossums followed us along a turquoise and white water river down towards our 1600 meter destination. This was what I had been longing for: solitude.
This bicycle ride didn't show me what I might be painting this summer in Yunnan Province. I didn't really discover subject matter. In fact I found myself looking at the exact same subject matter that I had been working on last year at this time: fir trees, bare spring hardwoods, pine woods, hills painted with a palette of orange and red earthtones. Blue skies. What I felt, however, was the creative power that comes with isolation. Relaxing at the edge of a stream, basking in the sun, far away from other people, far away from things that people make, far away from ideas, information, away from society. It is this distance that clears the mind, that allows the eyes to see simple things, that allows original feelings to flow.
Below are a list of quotes on solitude. I thought it would be interesting to see what others have to say about this thing that we are so fearful of.
A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Converse with men makes sharp the glittering wit, but God to man doth speak in solitude.
John Stuart Blackie
Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.
But the delights of solitude don't only consist of dreaming. Next in enjoyment, I think, comes planning.
Books support us in our solitude and keep us from being a burden to ourselves.
Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.
solitude is the audience-chamber of God.
Walter Savage Landor
Alone let him constantly meditate in solitude on that which is salutary for his soul, for he who meditates in solitude attains supreme bliss.
A creation of importance can only be produced when its author isolates himself, it is a child of solitude.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If isolation tempers the strong, it is the stumbling-block of the uncertain.
Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.
Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau
The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.
I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.
Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude.
Miguel de Unamuno