Transcendentalism for the Modern Era


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There is a perfect and still beauty to moments of aloneness. I have long desired to leave behind most everything in a bid for inner peace, and as winter neared, I imagined that solitude in ice and snow would render my heart a necessary balm. With books and a pad, my pen and tea, I took too a little house on a lake an hour and a half from Toronto. During those days I read, I sipped, I wrote, I thought, and I was alone, so splendidly, absolutely alone.On mornings, enamored with the sparkling majesty of a day yet born, I would prepare the wood stove and take my tea to the window where I could look out on my secluded paradise as the sun began its pass. In the afternoon I would venture to the lake’s edge, nervous to step further as a trickling stream broke the ice sheet as it met the snowy rock bank, blushing pale as the rare snowmobile drove hundreds of meters away with callous disregard. I would stand in the knee-high snow and study the snow and sky, the lake and trees, and overcome with the beauty of life cloaked in white, rivaled only by the splendor of night, I would try to capture the magnificence with words, counting lines on my fingers, until, scared that I would begin to lose my inspiration, I would run inside and scribble them down, and then hunker over the stove to recover my warmth.

My neighbors were two. There was a squirrel that I thought was a bird. I only saw it on the final day, and the craters that it left in line from tree-to-tree suggested a bouncing bird that had missed its flight. I now know that squirrels, too, can hop like mad when outside in the miserable cold. The other neighbor was Gord, a kindly man who dragged my father’s van out of an ice rut with his half-ton truck when I was first deposited. Quintessentially Canadian, he bashfully declined our gratitude and wished us well as he drove away into the wintry night. I suppose I also ought to count my housemate, the fly, but he fared poorly after throwing himself at a bulb in a final amor fati.

In the days that I spent alone, I read and I wrote. A dear had put a text in my hand before I left, and I had begun it casually before riding north. Once alone, I let it carry me away into the space that God set aside for literature and art, where contemplation and fantasy took their stir, and I was yet again reminded of the simple power of love and hope, and the absurdity of a life in which we desperately need both. Between frenzied fits of scribbling on my pad, I took refuge in my reading and in prayer, and a private contemplation of beauty that drew no shame because it called for no admirers. And so alone I was happy.

My primary diversion was a simple game of fortitude when the sun was fading, in which I would stand outside, still, and wait until I could stand it no more. Back by the wood stove, I would let the heat radiate and behold the wonderful silence of an aloneness so pure. But for every longing to be away, my heart also sang of a place nearer, and as I took for Boston in a flight from my sand dunes of escape, I was comforted by the joy of what pulled me in return.

Matt Boulos is a 3L whose proudly Canadian spelling was altered to suit American tastes.

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