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MY LATEST COLUMN IN THE ALLENSPARK WIND: One quarter of the U.S. population lives alone, more than 50 million people. When I was young I lived alone for less than two years and then I lived with my wife and children for 52 years. Living alone presents a number of challenges, and those are greater here in our mountains. We have a number of people here who live a solitary life. Most of my local friends live without others most of the time. Learning to live that way takes, I’ve found, a certain amount of courage. One has to live with the prospect of being injured or just dropping dead and not being found for what could be a very long time. I’ve had almost two years of living alone and I’ve developed a sort of devil-may-care attitude toward what might go wrong. Still, I’ve become, if not more cautious, aware that slicing my hand instead of the bagel is still possible and the result would be a problem. So I think about the dangers of living alone and I try to be careful about the more dreadful possibilities like falling. On the other hand, there are a number of compensations, not the least of which is that I can be quite selfish. I can get in the car and go anywhere, any time, without asking permission. I can work undisturbed except for a treat-begging cat. I can’t be harassed by anyone complaining I haven’t done something. I do have some deadlines, meetings, and other obligations, but since I’m elderly I get a pass if I opt out. I have traveled quite a bit, but not much in the past few years. Now I can travel and visit some of the places I missed the first time around. I suppose everyone who lives solo, by choice or circumstance, deals with it according to all of the parameters of their lives. They might be lonesome or they might enjoy solitude. They might seek out a social group. They might look for someone to live with or they might concentrate on their work. They might enjoy being able to choose companions. They might want to write a memoir. They might just enjoy their freedom. Or they might fall in love. As long as we’re alive there are always possibilities. Living alone doesn’t mean isolation for many millions; friends and family are just a few clicks away, unless you live here and don’t have Internet access. It’s a little inconvenient, but access is available and The Old Gallery provides, with its many programs, more than just the Internet. There’s the old saying that all you need in life is someone to love and something to do. That may not be everything but it’s certainly true that those things are a large part of a purposeful life. Many of us live alone because we outlived someone we loved. Like most people in that position I have had my “What do I do now” moments, but I have children and their families whom I love, and almost without trying I have plenty to do. Traveling is still a vacation and I often feel I need a vacation. Time and gravity take their toll on nearly everyone. Everyone who lives here eventually leaves for lower altitude, with relatives or assisted living. Otto and Margaret Walter were exceptions, and there have been some others. Most of us, if we live long enough, have to leave. Most readers of the Wind have seen it happen. It happened to my grandfather, my father, my mother and if I live long enough it will be my turn. This summer I will have plenty of company as my family comes to our valley for their vacations. I still love what grandfather called his paradise: the intense blue sky, the view, the sounds of the brook and children playing, the smell of the pines. My cabin turns 98 this year. Just that will give me plenty to do, so my summer will be full and purposeful. I’m taking a vacation in Germany in the fall. I will be by myself. I’m looking forward to that, as well.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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