It’s been thirty-eight days since I arrived in upstate New York, and so far it’s exactly how I imagined it would be: gorgeous, quiet, clean and solitary. Several people have asked how I can possibly like being alone all the time. “I would go insane,” they tell me. “How do you manage not to?” (some visual clues at the bottom of this post)
First of all, I am not entirely alone because I have a dog.
Secondly, I’m not entirely alone because I take walks and pass by neighbors (everyone waves to each other up here), and sometimes we even strike up conversations. I also get out of the house for errands, events, meetings and socializing with new and old friends in the area. So far, I’ve been to a brunch, an Oktoberfest party, a lecture, a business meeting, two book club gatherings and an afternoon of apple picking, which was a lot of fun.
Thirdly, I’m not entirely alone because I go to New York City (aka “the city”) every few weeks to be with family, friends and colleagues. Soon, I’ll be venturing to New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. to see more people. These weekend trips are wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is they keep me on my toes. Driving in New York City is no joke.
All that said… I am definitely alone most of the time. Here are a few reasons why it doesn’t bother me.
I’m writing. When I’m not writing, I’m reading. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m checking social media, riding my motorcycle, cooking, walking, watching television, sleeping or, like previously mentioned out and about, in and out of the city and so on.
My daily schedule is broken down into blocks of time that start at 4:30 a.m. and end around 9:00 p.m. The 4:30-7:30 a.m. block is what a friend and I have dubbed the Plath Hours, after Sylvia Plath’s habit of working between four and eight in the morning, before her children woke up. We actually check in with each other via Twitter with the hashtag #plathhours. Feel free to join us if you’re interested. We don’t do it every day. Actually, the past few days, I’ve been writing at night instead of the morning. We dubbed the night writing hours #poehours.
My schedule includes a total of nine hours of writing time every week day, but I’m not writing the entire nine hours. I’m also checking email, social media, doing research, keeping up with my Modern Loss editing, and reading online journals. The point is, I’m at my computer working, with little to no distractions.
The rest of the day is broken up between playing with Ruby and regular day-to-day activities. We spend roughly three-four hours per day outside – rain or shine. I use this time to read and exercise (I’ve done both in the rain). Ruby plays fetch, chews her sticks, and explores the vast and many mysteries in the backyard. Afterwards, she sleeps under my writing desk on a bunch of pillows (rough life, I know.)
At 4:30 p.m., if I have errands to run, this is when I ride the motorcycle. Luckily, it’s still warm enough to ride. If I don’t have errands, Ruby and I walk to a nearby creek. She’s recently befriended a beautiful Doberman who lives at a farm along the way, and now he follows us to the creek. The dogs end up swimming, wrestling over sticks, and chasing squirrels and chipmunks. I’m not sure how we’ll keep up this routine when it gets cold, but I’ve thought about taking up cross-country skiing as a way to stay warm and still be outside.
A friend recently teased me that I’m living “a monk’s life.” It’s not as severe as that, but he has a point. It would definitely be nice to balance this solitary life with human company at the end of the day. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if/when I live with someone again. I’m pretty sure I will still spend a lot of time alone, in my office, with the dog at my feet.
I guess what I’m saying is that I see this lifestyle continuing on some level. Maybe I won’t live in the countryside, or maybe I’ll live part-time in the countryside. Either way, I plan to always have a place where I can be alone in a quiet, private atmosphere, and hopefully a fireplace or wood burning stove.
For now, I’m okay with things the way they are. Most of my energy is going into my work, which fulfills me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.
When people ask me how I like this new solitary, country life, I just smile. “It’s good for the soul.” It’s also producing results. More on that later.
October 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm
How wonderful. Your new life has a bit more aloneness than I can take, but the ability to create your own schedule and focus on what you want to do sounds delightful.
October 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm
Yeah it’s not for everyone, and I see it as only a phase, or a bridge to the next phase. But for now it’s good and grounding.
October 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm
You seem so serenely happy. I love this and am relaxing vicariously through you.
October 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm
Thanks V! 🙂 xo
October 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm
Love this and you. Especially seeing you and Ruby so happy. You are inspiring. Love the #Plathhours #poehours Very grounding and disciplined. xoxo Continued happy.
October 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm
Thanks Tamika!! Hope to see you in NYC at some point. xoxo
October 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm
Omg ! You are living my dream life ! This sounds all so perfect , simple and peaceful ! Niva ! You are living the real deal ! 🙂
October 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm
Aww, thank you Ivan. I want you to come visit me!! And also to skype with you! One day you will be in the countryside too. 🙂
October 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm
It’s so interesting to me that some would call your life solitary. You are working … and when you are not, you have an incredible full life! It sounds pretty darn great to me!
Enjoy this season of your life, Niva!
October 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm
Thank you LB! I agree completely. 🙂
October 19, 2014 at 10:07 am
Lovely, just lovely!
October 19, 2014 at 10:57 am
Thank you, Peppur. Lovely to see you here!
October 19, 2014 at 11:59 am
Sounds absolutely wonderful, Niva! And also very productive! You are doing a great job of getting out enough, meeting new people, having new experiences – all are necessary for a writer to not only have something to write about but also, problem solve when we’re working on a project. As writers, it’s so good for us to get out and observe people, gather experiences and step away from the computer for a while. Where else are we going to get our material? I’m SO proud of you!!! I’ll try you later today. Miss and love you!!! xoxo
October 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Absolutely Steph, it’s a balance between getting out to observe and engage, and staying in to process and express. Miss and love you too!! Xoxo
October 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm
So solitary and yet it works for you. I love the part about the plathhour. I’m a night owl and cannot imagine deliberately getting up at 4:30 am. I’m impressed you were able to move cross country alone and set up a new life. That takes guts.
October 22, 2014 at 6:24 pm
Thank you Marti. Lately it’s been harder to wake up early but every morning is a new opportunity! 🙂
October 31, 2014 at 7:13 am
I enjoyed reading the behind the scenes of your writing schedule– I’m inspired to get up early! Lovely pictures 🙂
December 5, 2014 at 7:43 am
I wonder where you are upstate, Niva. I’m in the Finger Lakes, west of Ithaca on 71 acres of land bordering the Finger Lakes National Forest. Crazy place for a widow to live, right? Way out here where the skies are dark. But after my husband died in 2008, the most healing thing for me was being on the land, in the forest, by the streams, watching sunsets with my dog(s). Eight days after his death, I dreamed I would live in the house of the Green Man (pre-Christian Northern European nature god of life and vegetation–son or consort or Earth Mother). He was spring green with bronze foliage hair, naked in a lion-footed bathtub large enough for a giant man. I’m still hanging out with him. It’s a good life for a writer, too. Beautiful photos.
December 10, 2014 at 10:50 am
Hi Elaine, thanks so much. I’m in Greene county, is that anywhere near where you are? And yes, being on the land, in nature, experiencing the weather in a place where it’s beautiful and not just a hassle… all is such a big part of healing. I hadn’t realized it before but then it sort of called to me. So, here I am. 🙂 I’m terribly excited at the idea that we might be near each other. Need to learn the geography of the state better!
December 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm
I’m about two hours west of Oneonta and according to google maps, Green County is between Oneonta and the Hudson River. It’s beautiful here–waterfalls, wineries, the Finger Lakes (I live near Seneca), Ithaca, Buddhist monasteries, meditation centers. Now I’m snowed in, happily waiting out the storm with a house full of human, dog, and bird food. Hope we’ll find a way to meet sometime.
December 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm
Yes! How exciting. We’ll make it happen for sure. Enjoy the snow. We’re pretty much snowed in too, and loving it.
November 7, 2015 at 2:44 pm
Niva, I stumbled on your blog after reading “My First Ten Dates After My Husband Died.” Thank you so much for your candor. I have been reading voraciously since my husband of 2.6 years died on Sept. 28th. No one has touched me yet the way you have. I am so sorry for your pain. I am so sorry for the struggle that you endure on a daily basis. I am grieving intensely right now and knowing that you understand how I feel has both brightened my day and saddened my heart.
November 11, 2015 at 2:30 am
Hi there, first, let me say how sorry I am for your pain, which I do understand and know it is devastating. Sending love and strength to you through the matrix. As a friend once told me, “your only job right now is to keep breathing.” Second, thank you for letting me know you read the blog and it has helped. That means so much to me. Keep in touch, and keep breathing. xo Niva
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