Studying at my makeshift coastal campus isn't quite panning out as I'd envisaged. Even though I've got free Wi-Fi access through the campsite and I've paid for five days on an intermittently available FON network too, reception is piss poor and a lot of the time non-existent. Nothing for it when I can't access the online library but to nip over that grassy bank that separates my van from the beach. It's a good place to think about what I'm going to write even if I'm not poring over online journals and committing all that academic evidence to paper. Well that's my excuse anyway. I've come up with some corking insights as I've gazed out to sea.
In the absence of human company I've also made friends in this, my fresher's week, with this little egret who frequents a rocky outcrop. I call him Englebert. We sit and stare at each other. Sometimes when he gets a bit freaked he makes a half hearted attempt to put a few more feet of distance between us. In doing so he reveals some spectacular comedy yellow feet on the end of his gangly black legs. I giggled when I first saw them. 'How do you know that he's your friend' asked Louis on the phone last night 'Because he speaks back when I talk to him' I said. He took this in his stride 'I love you, Mad Mum' he replied.
Please be reassured that the absence of fellow students of the same species isn't really causing me to hear birdies chatter away in fluent English or Franglais. That would be way weird. I only said it for effect. I'm not devoid of human contact altogether anyway. There's nightly phone calls to friends and family, little conversations with the people that I encounter in town and on the beach and email dialogues with my tutor. Distance learning is a bit isolating though. It would be lovely to have other learners to bounce ideas around with and drink cider with in a bar after a hard day's study. I'm sure it would improve my grades. The flexibility of this kind of learning though outweighs its downsides.
Largely alone but in no way lonely is how I'd describe my situation here. Instead of motoring through that essay I'm learning different lessons about the value of practical and mental self reliance and the power that silent contemplation brings. After all, isn't education about all meant to be wider than the stuff that is formally taught?
In one of those rare windows of Internet activity, I turned to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about solitude. I like the take on it from Edward Abbey, an American activist and philosopher. Follow this link and go and have a look under the heading ' As Pleasure' if you're interested. I'd never heard of the guy before but now I've sought out some of his other wisdom. There's heaps of it from someone who seemed like a rather chilled, but together dude.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”