There are those who worship loneliness, I'm not one of them,
In this age of fiberglass, I'm searching for a gem,
The crystal ball upon the wall hasn't shown me nothing yet,
I've paid the price of solitude —
                but at least I'm out of debt ...
— Bob Dylan, 'Dirge', 1974

The Inward Season

After an uneventful holiday at home in New Jersey I rode the Amtrak train back to New England in early January of 1986. The train was headed to Boston, with a connecting bus to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I was headed inward, hoping for a connection to I knew not what.

In one of life's happy coincidences (or the Universe's intelligent designs) I inherited a small amount of money from my grandparent's estate. It was only about $2,000, but with my already frugal lifestyle it gave me enough money to live on for a few months while I focused on this 'inward project'.

The Routine

When I got to Portsmouth I tried to bring some focus to my life and quest, so I began a routine of waking up and walking downtown to one of several cafe's that I frequented. There I would order coffee, sit at a table by myself, and write. The writing was stream of consciousness and wandered all over: what I was thinking today, memories of childhood, dreams of last week, conversations around me. I didn't know what else to do, so I just kept writing. When I wasn't writing I would strike up conversations with the people around me. This led to some connections with new people, which led to interesting conversations, which led to more writing.

I found that the approach I tried worked out well. Each day I would look at where I left off in my writing, see if there was more to dig up and continue. If not, I would let my mind wander around the garden, looking for another root to trip over. Eventually I was no longer tripping over the roots and I had to probe for them. With the soil looking clean I naturally began to turn my attention to what was above ground as well.

The Long Winter

I was something of a zombie that Winter. I eventually got a job washing dishes in a restaurant to pay the rent and buy a little food. I stayed mostly to myself, but since I was spending a lot of time sitting in cafe's I ended up meeting and hanging out with other folks who spent a lot of time at cafe's. I found that many of them liked to talk about deep thoughts like I did, so, added to the friends I had already. During this time I didn't go out much and certainly wasn't off partying. I was too serious for that. I was alone most of the time, but I don't recall being lonely.

What Was Accomplished?

Describing the results of this season of deep thought and self-analysis is difficult, because it was at such a deep and fundamental level. The best analogy that I can offer is that it is like unpacking everything inside yourself, examining it, getting rid of what is not important, and re-packing the rest in an organized way. The result was that I left this phase in my life feeling much lighter, much more sure of who I was, and much more focused on getting back to the business of living.