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Monday, October 2, 2000

After a weekend spent in good company, with so much action packed into a few days, I always feel the solitude just a bit more when I come home. I don't regret living alone, but I do feel more isolated when I face so many hours in no one's company but my own. It makes the house seem emptier, and now that I'm living here in the Fortress, there's that much more house, and it feels that much emptier.

I don't get a lot of opportunities to be with people, and sometimes I forget what it's like. I fall into a comfortable trap, staying home alone. Night after night I'll find an excuse not to go out where other people are. When I do get a chance to be around others, especially family and friends, I often have to remind myself that it's okay to break the routine and say yes.

Then I have a great weekend like the one that just ended, and here comes Monday morning. Somehow it feels different to go back on regular schedule, falling asleep without the sounds of people snoring and fish jumping, waking up without hearing children giggling and adults getting ready for the day.

Now I'm the first to admit I'm not much company first thing in the morning, but the computer booting up is a poor substitute for the buzz of conversation, even if I'm just listening to others while keeping a tight grip on a coffee cup.

Two nights ago I slept under the stars, millions of twinkling lights that turn the black sky into a work of art, so different from the diffused gray you can see from here in town. The pictures and patterns the stars form out in the natural world fire up the imagination. In the city, all you see are a few isolated points of light scattered here and there overhead — if you even bother to go outside and look up.

Last night I slept under my roof, with nothing overhead but the bedroom ceiling. I thought about the stars, though. I remembered them, as I also considered the small community those of us on the two houseboats had created. I reminded myself that there is a different world, and a different way to live.

I've chosen my way, but it's not the only way, and there are as many different possible courses a life can take as there are combinations of humans on this planet, or patterns of stars in the heavens.

Once upon a time, when my nephews were younger, I was privileged to be entrusted with responsibility for them, when their parents had a rare chance for a brief escape. I treasured those times, and the memories of those nights and weekends sometimes sustain me when I miss the good times we had.

But I also remember the ache I felt when those brief shared moments ended, and I retreated to my solitude. Even though I've lived alone for so much of my life, I almost never use the word "lonely" to describe how I feel. But the first night alone after spending a few days with my nephews was always difficult. The constant activity and alertness ended so suddenly, and I faced my own situation in all its starkness.

Today, after our wonderful weekend, was not a typical Monday. I tried to keep to my usual schedule, but every so often I'd have a flashback to those other times, when "lonely" suddenly had a real meaning.

Like so many things, it takes no more than a day or two to fall back into the old habits. Before I can lapse into a full-blown depression, I'll be back in the rut I manage to plow through my typical days and nights.

I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but it helps me get by. Some of this feeling will be good to hold onto, though, because it will remind me of the rewards that breaking the routine can bring.

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