“You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself,” I found myself singing as I walked alone in the snow the other day. Here’s a snippet.
And I was walking along, feeling so alive and so delighted be reminded of how important solitude is to my creative process. When I was a lonelier person (a fat, smart, Jewish girl in a small town high school…you do the math) my solitude came “naturally” and my art (mostly some very bad poetry and a few equally bad songs) was by my side when I felt like no one else was. Being able to spill my guts in words and in music was a vital refuge for my lonely girl soul, and that lonesome valley was, I have no doubt, an important training ground for the songwriter I became.
“Yes,” I thought to myself crunching through the snow, “I’ve got to walk this lonesome valley by myself.” And then I thought, “I can’t wait to share this insight about solitude in a Scoutie Girl post!” And then I laughed at myself.
And that movement from aloneness to sharing sums up what so much of the creative life is about for me. We want to connect, we want to share, we want our art (whatever form it takes) to reach all the way to the heart of the other.
And yet, in order to make the art that I can then offer up, I have to be willing to walk the lonesome valley by myself.
As Woody Guthrie’s version of the song goes:
Mamma and daddy loves you dearly,
Sister does and brother, too,
They may beg you to go with them,
But they cannot go for you.
I am grateful that solitude is now something I have to seek out when I want it. And I have also, more and more, been enjoying the work of songwriting itself as a community process.
But at their core, my songs are born in solitude; I lose my sense of connection with Source very quickly when I don’t make the time to simply be alone.
So whatever lonesome valley you walk — by choice or under duress — may it become a source of wonderful treasures that you can bring back and share with the rest of us.
Bonus: Here’s a version of Pete Seeger “lining out the hymn” as he likes to call it (teaching a song as he sings it, just like he taught me and lots of others how to do).