On Being Alone: The Power of One

Happy New Year!
For the second time in two years, our coveted tickets to see Hamilton were cancelled due to Covid. Frustrated, my daughter, her husband and I purchased admission for that particular Sunday, January 2, to see the well-reviewed Jane Goodall exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. On the eve of our departure both of my companions fell ill. I considered aborting the trip. After all it is a long way into the city, and I almost always travel with a companion. I realized of late that I had developed a habit of going places with others. I decided I would go alone. Off I went to Exposition Park in Los Angeles.
Upon entering the museum and providing my vaccination card, I was admitted to the spellbinding Goodall exhibit. Wonderful technology allowed a video presentation of Jane explaining to us the importance of anecdotes, observation, and the immense power of the single individual. Goodall fervently believes we can save the environment if we each work together toward that goal. I was inspired. The exhibit further explained that paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey was instrumental in starting Dr. Goodall on her chimpanzee project in Tanzania. On a 2011 trip to Ngorongoro, Tanzania, our family had been captivated by the 3.5 million year-old fossilized footprints of an early hominin discovered by the Leakey family. The Leakeys had been on my radar for years, ever since Richard Leakey was a guest speaker when I taught at Cypress College, and I had the privilege of hosting him.
After an extended time in the Goodall exhibit, I made my way to the Becoming Los Angeles rooms where I encountered photos of the oil fields on Venice Beach where I grew up. I had never seen these powerful views before. They were remarkable in that they showed the density of the 1930’s and 40’s oil wells on the beach shore where I grew up in the 40’s, sandwiched between derricks. As I continued to appreciate the beginnings of my birth city, I became more rapt when I came upon a portrait displayed on the wall of my friend, Jacque Nunez from San Juan Capistrano. Jacque is a Native American and a prominent spokesperson for indigenous people. She has dedicated her life to representing the important contributions of Native People.
I realized that had I been with companions, my tour of the museum would have been far different. After a way too short three hours, I drove myself to Venice Beach where I spent most of my childhood, and where Ken and I visited many times researching for my Venice book in 2020. However, the pandemic lockdown limited our access. I wanted to walk around and take it in with its current bells, whistles and quirks.
I parked on the beach lot at the end of Washington, and walked the few steps onto the fishing pier. I was astonished to discover that I had serendipitously caught the King Tide at its lowest point!! Controlling my impulse to jump up and down with joy, lest others think me strange, I quickly pulled off my shoes and set out walking south on the wet sand toward Ballona Creek. It was a venture I had not taken since 1964, in the summer of our marriage when Ken and I lived in an apartment over the fish market at the pier. The extremely low tide revealed dozens of perfect sand dollars, scallops, razor and large clam shells set among muscle remains and seaweed. I was immediately transported back to my shell collecting, beach walking girlhood on this very stretch of sand. I was delighted and became lost in my old ways of being at the beach, on the edge of the continent, which included a whole lot of alone time, thinking, and being in nature with myself.
When I got home I shared my adventurous day with Ken. Smiling at me he said, “You know Donna, I wasn’t so sure about you driving alone all the way into the inner city, but I am glad you did. I see now that you still know how to be alone. I’m proud of you.”
Continuing my pondering, I recalled two things one of my favorite authors, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlin has to say. She urges us to live more in the moment while she wishes that she had simply paid more attention to her children when they were young. She regrets that she kept so busy. The other idea of hers I admire is how important it is for us to be alone with ourselves. I realize that’s what my Sunday was about, a day of being alone with myself. Perhaps when we allow ourselves personal time we have the luxury of thinking about bigger things such as the environment.
I have been writing and thinking about my new year’s resolution for a while now. I resolved to have more open spaces in my calendar, but maybe that is not really it. Perhaps I simply need more conscious alone time. I know that when I am alone to think, creative ideas flow to my consciousness. So my new year’s resolution is to carve out more alone time and to give myself permission to live more in the moment, to set the To Do list aside, and be more with myself. I want to find ways to do more about the environment as well. How about you? Are you taking time to be alone with yourself, to celebrate the power of one? What kind of New Year’s resolutions are you contemplating? I am interested in your thoughts on this subject.
I wish you a wonderful, healthful, peaceful new year filled with respect for yourself. My best, donna