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Of all the “A” words in the adoptee’s lexicon, one of the hardest is “Alone.” 

An aged tree on Canyon Road- photo by Beth Stephens

A venerable old tree on Canyon Road- photo by Beth Stephens

How often we may have heard the saying, “We’re born alone and we die alone,” and deep down we know that being sometimes alone is simply part of life.

To the adopted self, however, “alone” can conjure up feelings of abandonment and rejection. Our original parents could or would not keep us, and even though we may never have been actually alone, we did not feel that we belonged to anyone. I can speak only for myself, but as I meet others looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses, this  perception of “alone” seems to be common. However, one morning’s experience can change everything, which is what happened in the following episode…

Place: Santa Fe National Forest.
Time: A few days ago.
Action: Snowshoeing up Aspen Vista Road with my son.

The weather prediction was for clouds, sun, and “occasional showers.” We started at 9:30 a.m. up the winding uphill forest road that ended in five miles at cluster of radio towers. Our goal was not to reach the top but to be out for half a day. I urged my son to snowshoe on ahead…he’d easily catch up with me on his way down. Fresh snow festooned shrubs, grasses, big rocks. The air was frigid, the sky a combination of gray, blue and white.
My son disappeared around a bend and I was suddenly solo. Every five minutes or so, I stopped to listen to the solitude.  No apparent wind, but nonetheless the trees made a barely audible “shushing” sound. Whenever the sun came out, crystal-like sparkles appeared on snow billows that bordered both sides of the road. Minutes after an interlude of sunshine, it started to graupel.
Note: according to Wikipedia, Graupel refers to precipitation that forms when

The hushed stillness of a morning in late winter

The hushed stillness of a morning in late winter

supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake, forming a 2–5 mm ball of rime. Strictly speaking, graupel is not the same as hail or ice pellets.
Neither snow nor rain, graupel is a phenomenon worth recognizing when it happens. That morning, it served as the perfect metaphor. Just as graupel is like snow but not the same thing, being alone is not being lonely. The thought filled me with inexplicable joy, as I realized that this was time to just breathe, snowshoe and soak up the beauty around me. The sky eventually cleared and turned from eggshell blue to deep indigo.
I reached the end of the hike having covered less territory than my son,  However, I felt that I’d been out for many, many miles. My take on being alone had flipped from morose to euphoric. In today’s noisy, overcrowded, frenetic world, solitude is increasingly a luxury. In the hours of one morning I came to realize that one can be alone without being lonesome, and that was a gift.

Join Elaine on Monday for observations about adoption and life!

Join Elaine  for observations about adoption and life!