Years of Sitting Alone

(2 min read)

My grandfather’s favorite thing to do was to sit under an apple tree at the bottom of a hill in his yard and smoke cigars. He’d have his shirt unbuttoned all the way, kind of slouched, moving the cigar to his mouth in a slow, sideways arc.

As a kid I found this annoying because it was clear he wanted the tree and the cigars more than he wanted anything else. And he was very very open about this, particularly to us kids.

“Hey, Grandpa. What do you want for Christmas?”

“Peace in quiet!” Then back to puffing.

I always though this was a curmudgeon-y way to go about life: constantly seeking to be sitting alone.

And then I noticed my dad doing it: the sitting alone thing.

If given a free moment, my dad chooses the patio with a spy novel, a cigar, and if it’s late enough in the day and the work is done, a scotch on the rocks, pausing between car explosions and chase scenes to check out the squirrels and the birds playing in the trees.

And then there’s me…

My thing is hot tea, a book (probably nonfiction), some jazz, and my velour swivel chair by the faux fireplace. Chances are I’ll have one leg over the armrest, sitting almost hammock style in the living room. And, in purposefully slow movements, I’ll read a few pages, put the book down on my chest, take a sip of tea, pick the book back up, and read a few more pages.

In the warm days of summer, I’ve been known to sit under our lemon tree outside and smoke a cigar. I honestly don’t even like cigars, but I don’t do it for the taste. I do it out of respect, as if my quest for peace and quiet and mindfulness began generations ago, before my dad sat with squirrels, even before my dear ol’ grandpa sat with his apple tree.

Maybe it was on another continent, maybe it was carving wood or shucking cane. Maybe it was a woman who sat down first. Maybe there was no tree and not even any shade, just a rock with a smooth flat top, just high enough off the ground to take the strain off her back.

And I wonder if, in that faraway land, under a younger sun calling for a bent and huffing figure to choose to sit alone for the very first time… if, in that quiet search for solitude, so brilliant in its simplicity, there exists the reason for my smile.