It's not a time of year that I enjoy. Give me the long, light days of summer over the dark, damp days of autumn anytime. When you work from home it can be all too easy to fall into claustrophobic hermitude, a condition I am unfortunately pre-disposed to.
It's a well documented fact that, as we rely more and more on technology and social networking sites for our contact with the outside world, we are becoming lonelier. It's all too easy to fall into this trap, but as we cut ourselves off from the natural world and from real life contact with our fellow human beings, we are becoming more lonely and depressed as a result.
But then I began to wonder ...
Although many of us now spend more physical time alone, when are we ever really, truly, properly alone? Could this general depression be caused by the fact that we are actually living in this halfway house of being alone but never being left alone? As a recent convert to the iphone (which I am already ridiculously addicted to) I realise that we are at the constant mercy of texts, emails, instant messages, bleeps and rings and buzzing constantly forcing us to check our inboxes. So think about it ... When was the last time you were ever, really alone? When was the last time you chose to be alone? When was the last time you switched off your phone and allowed yourself to breathe in the moment?
I was thinking about all this when I set off for a walk today. The first walk I've had alone for as long as I can remember. I used to go for walks like this all the time. From being a teenager I was always happiest trailing through the woods, exploring beaches, roaming across fields ... alone. Properly alone. I love people and consider myself to be a very sociable person, but I also love being by myself. These long, getting lost type walks are when I do my best thinking, when I let my imagination take over, when I dream up stories. When I live in the moment and breathe.
It took a while to get into it.
It is half term and there were too many people in my sight line for me to feel completely at ease, but then it started to rain and the families and their dogs gradually drifted away. Then I started to enjoy myself, unselfconsciously rummaging amongst the leaves and pebbles and shells, skimming a few stones (badly), slipping inelegantly on the rocks, pretending to be a mermaid who hasn't found her legs. It was blissful.
So maybe that's what is missing. At least for me. Yes, it is sometimes lonely, working from home. But when I'm fully immersed in my work, I don't feel lonely. I enjoy being alone. (I also enjoy being with people). What I don't enjoy is being continuously, vaguely, distractedly, 'connected' via the internet. What is sometimes missing then, is this: Real alone time. Time to immerse myself. With nature. With ideas. With work. With dreaming. Time to be still. Be quiet. Listen to the earth breathing. Listen to my imagination.
With this in mind, perhaps the oncoming winter isn't so unwelcome after all. Suddenly, the thought of long, desolate winter walks with just my imagination for company seem like exactly what is needed.