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The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude, Part Two

“The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude” is a series created in self isolation in a tree house in the woods. “The Tree House Chronicles: Outside, an Internal Exploration of Solitude” explores my experiences with solitude. Beginning in childhood’s quiet moments, growing roots in my teens as I read the stories of lonely artists(1) and a solitary family(2), and solidifying as I confront a world altered by COVID-19.

…continued from Week 21, Week 23, Week 25, Week 27
Alone in Paris

Reading had taken me away for long periods at a time,” author James Baldwin recounted in an interview(3), “yet I still had to deal with the streets and the authorities and the cold”. And when escaping into books failed, Baldwin physically escaped New York in 1948, landing in a lonely Paris: “when I arrived in Paris […] I didn’t know anyone […] I went through this period where I was very much alone, and wanted to be.

As a child and into my young adulthood, I wanted — I craved— to be alone. Because aloneness contains opportunities for ever-firing synapses to focus, contains space to chase creativity and stay with questions, contains time to read the hundreds of books I’ve absorbed in my short life. Solitude is not a world devoid of life, but a world containing space to experience and reflect on life.

Escaping into Reality

Writer Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, in her essay “The Weight”, describes Baldwin as “[t]his freedom-seeking gay man,” who sought solitude “where he could write as an outsider from the noise, alone in silence, with fearlessness.(4) And in my COVID-19 aloneness I wonder, if Baldwin’s flight from “the authorities and the cold” offered him the ability to sculpt “the noise” into words and humans and places. So he could tell the story of American-justice-system-crossed lovers in If Beal Street Could Talk(5) and give them life within the pages. Lives creating an escape into reality: Baldwin’s words and characters becoming the cogs and wheels, ones and zeros, atoms and bacteria keeping our planet spinning.

Right now most of us cannot physically escape our homes and circumstances. And so, like Baldwin in his “rainbow kitchen(6), we must be alone, for moments or months at a time, to articulate our experiences and stories and perspectives. Because, as Baldwin wrote in 1984, “I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all.(7)

Continued on Week 31…

*Endnotes and Resources 

1. Laing, Olivia. “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone”. 2016.
2. García Márquez, Gabriel. “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. 1967.
3. Elgrably, Jordan. “James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78”. The Paris Review. 1984. Accessed May 2020.
4 and 6. Kaadzi Ghansah, Rachel. “The Weight” in “The Fire This Time” edited by Jesmyn Ward. 2016. Pages 28-9 and 30.
5. Baldwin, James. “If Beal Street Could Talk”. 1976.
7. Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son”. In the preface to the 1984 edition. Page xii.

People, Works, Terms Mentioned:

 James Baldwin / Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah / For books and essays: refer to endnotes above / solitude / COVID-19 / bacteria

*All references and resources have been thoroughly researched prior to use.