Communal vs solitary

It takes all kinds to populate a world. Every possible niche is filled, and diversity helps to ensure species survival. Today I’m thinking about the pleasures of social interaction, as well as the delights of quiet iconoclasm.

We’ve thought, in previous diary entries, about the dangers of loneliness, but the crowd can be a frightening place as well. Everyone chit-chatting away, advice and comments rampaging through multiple conversations, with no time for quiet reflection or serious accommodating thought. It’s all pushed in one’s face, sometimes, too much bonhomie and too little room for introspection.

Perhaps this is why Georgie Cruddas’ comment about the potential joys of gardening with Higher Ground makes such good sense; naturally shy folks can enjoy the work, with intermittent rest periods for one-to-one interactions. Social life can be a lot quieter while tending the garden together.

I’ve found that I cope better in social groups when I have something useful to do, but thrown onto my own devices for conversation, I stutter, blush and feel lost. This probably explains why I’ve so enjoyed bar work over the years; you’re in the thick of the crowd, working to please everyone, yet solitary, protected by the bar, as it were.

It’s no surprise, then, that with a little help from Syd Martin’s famous portable bar, acquired as a hand-me-down from the Lions Club old ‘Beer Festival’ gear, I’ve been able to create a pub-like ambience in my own little man-cave, deep in one of our sheds at Elpha Green.

The Elf Hole works at family gatherings, Christmas and New Year’s and birthdays, send-offs, that sort of thing. It’s never occupied unless there’s a gang of folks around — my solitary bent doesn’t extend to lonely drinking on my own!

But I was intrigued to read of one man’s solitary quest to find a lost vein of silver ore, deep in the California desert. He enjoys the solitude, yet is delighted to show folks around, and sell them silver nugget souvenirs from his pickings 800 feet below. I was reminded of another man’s quest for a vein of special mauve fluorspar, up here at St. Peter’s mine. He worked so hard during a fortnight of explorations, from a base in our holiday cottage, but the search was ultimately fruitless, except for a small chunk of the quartz crystal that he left with us, and he and partner departed, somewhat disconsolately, to return to their busy urban life.

Sometimes the iconoclastic lifestyle can be comfortable, but it helps to have a social avenue too to stay grounded in basic humanity.

1 Comment

  1. The picture doesn’t do the coziness of The Elf Hole justice. I’ll be back in there one day without a car, so I can sample all on show; it should go down as one of the most desired social caves ….

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