Eremita woke in a silent room. She slept well through the night because nothing disturbed her. Waking came naturally, sometimes as early as 3 am, or as late as 9 am. She lived according to her own schedule. Her morning routine included washing a few dishes from the night before while boiling water for tea. Her home was clean, orderly, sparsely furnished. She bought only what she needed. The living room and kitchen were predominately white, the color of purity. Eremita was on a quest for absolute purity.
For three years, she had been paring away everything that was sullied, torn, worn or faded. Sully, “to damage the purity or integrity of; defile.” Her life had been full of defilement. To leave the defilement intact, or worse, to honor it, was not worthy of her.
In front of the large, floor to ceiling window in her living room stood a majestic old tree. Like her, it was battered and crooked. An evergreen, it looked the same, summer or winter. There were other trees next to it and behind it. Beyond the trees was sky. She did not see people or houses. The medium sized city was below her, well out of sight. Every day she took a walk in the dense woods that enclosed her.
For three years, she had been navigating her way through a birth canal. Although difficult at the beginning, it got easier as events started to flow in the right direction. During the course of her life, she had never known what direction she was going. She gravitated to chaos because this was the only state available to her. Without an internal compass, she read the signs given to her by others and unquestioningly followed in their direction.
Now, there were no others. She walked in a cloak of anonymity. While this had taken some time to get used to, Eremita liked “not being seen.” Her invisibility conferred a status that was only available to old women. When nobody cares what you do, you can do anything. The freedom inherent in this was liberating, exhilirating, intense. Every day could be sculpted to fit her desires. Vast new worlds were appearing like seeds inside a ripening bud.
Getting old means there is less of what was. A future that used to span decades gets condensed to a day, a week – at most, a year. Eremita no longer thought about what she was going to do, but only about what she was currently doing. As opposed to her youth, one action was not necessarily going to lead to a similar action. The linearity she once took for granted was curving itself into a spiral that took her deeper into a mysterious core.
For years, she had been drawing wings, spirals and the symbol for infinity. All of these shapes alerted her to an internal process that had been hidden from view. There was a new rhythm emerging that had nothing to do with what she had known. Sitting in front of a window, looking out at a towering tree, surrounded by absolute silence – this was part of the new pattern emerging from these symbols.
At an estate sale, she found the perfect vase for the fireplace mantle, along with a silent butler to hang her clothes on. At the thrift store, she found a salad spinner for $2.00 and a brand new hard-bound journal for $3.00. The world around her was conforming to her income, bringing her unexpected, delightful surprises. A life of poverty was being tranformed into elegant simplicity. The less she had, the more free she could become. No longer driven by possessions, she possessed all that she needed.
Keeping up with day-to-day activities used most of her energy. If she did regular cooking, cleaning and shopping, along with maintaining a writing schedule, there wasn’t much time for boredom. While all the major renovations were done, there were minor things that could take quite awhile.
Eremita sometimes wondered if this was going to be the last place she ever lived. What more did she need besides woods, a big window and solitude? If she lived alone in a house in the woods she would be scared. Every little noise would be threatening. Being in a large condo complex, she wasn’t alone, but still had privacy. Only one person walked by her front door, and her truck was parked in clear view from the kitchen window.
It sometimes seemed like she lived in a kind of solitary confinement that either was, or was not, her choice. Perhaps it is never a choice to live alone or be alone, but rather, a vocation. With the steady erosion of privacy, her lone status was a last stand for an old way of life. She did not have internet access and was unlikely to get it.
Her hair was as long now as when she was young. Despite being thin, it kept growing down her back. She loved touching it, feeling its softness. This was the way her hair was supposed to be. Maybe she would never cut it again. During the past few months, deep lines had became visible on either side of her mouth and on her forehead were bumps that had never been there before. The old age circles under her eyes were more prominent and her skin was wrinkled and crinkly when she smiled. What a joy and relief it was to not worry or care about aging.