Yesterday I felt lonely. Walking all by myself through the mountains, in the early evening under a dark sky that seems likely to start pouring its contents over any minute. It usually happens around 6 PM, in the early evening. I am aware that I am alone on this journey, it has been my choice to do so. It also gives me the opportunity to experience these moments and to think about them. I know I only have to make a phone call, or to walk in the direction of a village or a town to be amongst people again. But that is not what this is about. What I experience is being on myself, and being a little bit at the mercy of nature or my surroundings.
It is more a level of alone-ness than a a sense of loneliness anyway. You can be alone but not lonely. You can be with many, and yet lonely. I experience a sense of loneliness as well when I look at the many empty farms and houses. some of them in complete ruins, others in various stages of dereliction. It is a sad sight.
The people I meet are generally nice, friendly and responsive. The woman who drove me around for at least 20 km to find my way back after I had lost the connection to the path. But she goes home tonight to her family, to the fire in her kitchen. It is the alone-ness of the passer-bye who is not known or recognized.
I do walk into local pubs. After the first greeting and shouting of “oh’s” and “ah’s” at this guy walking the long journey, their attention quickly reverts back to the horse races on TV and their own conversations. Some of them even outright ignore me. They are small communities of people who know each other, greet each other and know each other’s place. Not so Dicky, however (“It’s about time you called me Dick”). Dicky has a problem with my journey. It’s ridiculous, you don’t do that, he says. What is the fun or the good in walking? I ask him about his passion, what he would love to do best of all, and could do almost every day. Well, there is an easy one for him: fooball and pub. So what if my passion is different, it is still something you love to do? He reacts angry, almost aggressive. Football and pub, that is something most people want, or at least 50% of them. No one wants to walk that far, so that is weird. He can’t imagine that anyone would want to do something that is not supported or done by any majority. It takes you outside the group and that is fearful and dangerous. Exclusion and banishment always have been and still are very effective punishments.
In a community like that, you could be very lonely as well, the huddling together only conceals it.
Lonely and alone, lonely with many, alone and anonymus, together and anonymus. And everything that sits in between.