La Mancha is a magical kingdom, which makes it a wonderful place to visit and a strange place to live. Magical kingdoms are like that. I suppose that makes my time as artist in residence a kind of experiment to find out what happens when someone actually lives here.
Solitude is what happens. A beautiful and terrible solitude. And there is no avoiding it. The gates in and out of La Mancha are locked every evening at nine o’clock. Many days everyone is gone by seven. By day La Mancha explodes in raucous and intoxicated celebration. At night the land empties itself and falls silent. At night I am alone here.
Well, not completely alone. Joe is here. Joe is the handyman for First Mountain. He’s a classic chill surfer dude, hard working and smart. He’s been here for years and knows this land as well as anyone could. He lives with his girlfriend Indigo in Williams Village three hundred yards east of me in a collection of converted shipping containers and a vintage RV he is restoring. We occasionally run into each other.
But for the most part I am alone in La Mancha for half of every day. The dark half.
I used to long for solitude, years ago when I was married and had children at home. I imagined having long stretches of time to sit with my thoughts. I imagined living life on my own terms. In the busyness of the first half of life, the idea of solitude can be compelling. And I’d say that I’ve found solitude to be as good as I imagined. I’ve learned things that only people who live alone know. I know that the stars speak to people who are alone. It takes years of being alone, but the stars will eventually speak. I don’t know what the stars will say to you, but I know what they have said to me.
I have found solitude to be beautiful and terrible, uplifting and overwhelming, nurturing and destroying, a source of joy and of pain. There is a heaviness to solitude when it comes rolling at you low and hard and constant. When it is every night. When your life has called you to it and you must obey. When you long for human contact but there is none to be found.
Solitude tears you down and rebuilds you in its own image. It is the peaceful darkness of rest and recovery. It is the facing of hard truths.
Solitude reveals the original you, long forgotten, from your time in the womb.
Solitude can heal you unless it kills you. Your mettle will be tested. You will screw your courage to the sticking point.
Solitude gives birth to animated life and bears witness to approaching death.
Solitude is a cold calculation that seeks to balance collective joy with quiet, lonely deliberation.
Solitude is half of La Mancha.
The half that almost no one knows.