I have recently paid attention to the fact that my solitude is always an accompanied solitude.
Last year, I took part in several group walking meditation sessions in the woods. During these walks, I found that was I flooded with images from the path and the season, and with associated images of people I once knew and events evoked by the trees and plants, and I realized that the group experience only compounded another type of experience, that of being accompanied by other inhabitants of the landscape of my mind.
Rarely, in fact, do I walk alone. I find that is especially true as I navigate the house and garden where I lived with my wife for many decades. As I watch myself watching, I keep coming back to the idea that place is only partially a matter of geography; it is also a matter of imagination. And that the construct in the brain, the result of the fusion of inner and outer landscape, is a curious and powerful web of sensory impression, recollection, reminiscence, association, emotion and rumination of and about people, habitats and events.
All of those images offer challenges to meditation, but not to rumination. Instead of allowing the images to pass through my consciousness, instead of finding a safe, empty, meditative space, I pay attention to my imaginary companions. And I find them everywhere, sometimes guiding me, sometimes talking to me, sometimes reminding me, sometimes keeping me company, sometimes coming into bright relief, sometimes lying vague and ghostly at the back of my mind, peopling the landscape with story.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of early summer. In the meantime, think about your inner and outer landscapes - and the people who inhabit them.