While reading the remainder of “Nature”, I found myself fighting an internal battle (which caused much distraction) over whether or not I agreed with Emerson in his first chapter. In chapter one (also entitled Nature), Emerson says “to go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.” At first, I completely balked at this idea. Is Emerson crazy? I feel the least alone when I look at the stars or walk in the woods or hike a mountain on my own. For the longest time, going into nature was one of the only means I had through which I could feel “not alone”. Growing up with few friends in a very isolated yet forest-rich village, I spent a lot of my time “alone” in nature but I can never remember feeling lonely. No, I felt lonely when I was alone in a house or a room.
That particular thought caused me to wonder if I was thinking about this all wrong. I was equating lonely with alone which is wrong (especially if you agree with Kelly Clarkson and every other empowering post-break up song ever written). In thinking back, while I never felt lonely tramping around the Weld woods, did I ever feel alone? When hiking on my own these days I never feel lonely, but do I ever feel alone? Well, yes, I do. I think in separating “lonely” from “alone”, I was able to understand and agree (for the most part) with this passage of Emerson’s.