Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor

Taylor: All by myself on the ski trail

After Christmas, I went up the mountain for some cross-country skiing. By myself.

Between my wife’s death and COVID-19 isolation, I’ve spent a lot of time alone this past year.

There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. Lonely is a state of mind; alone is a fact.

In the silence broken only by my skis swooshing along the tracks, I amused myself thinking of the benefits of being alone.

No negotiating about where to go, or when and where to meet.

No competition about who’s going to drive.

No disagreements over what to pack for lunch. No juggling of menus to suit someone else’s dietary needs.

No hurrying to keep up with someone younger and fitter.

No reason not to stop, to catch a breath, to take in the view…Or, in other settings, to pull off the road to read a historical marker, or to visit some natural wonder you’ve always rushed past before.

No need to phone anyone just because you’re running a little late.

And in a broader sense, no interruptions in the middle of a thought, a moment of meditation or of prayer.

You may have noticed, though, that I listed all those points as negatives. Because those benefits don’t outweigh the losses.

We, humans, are social animals. Evolutionary biologists now argue that the key factor in evolution is not survival of the most powerful or most ruthless, but the most cooperative.

That applies at all levels of life. From forests where trees nurture other trees. To single-celled creatures that clump together to share specialized functions. To elephants that form a living fortress to protect their young from predators.

And we humans are the most collaborative of creatures. Even if, for much of our history, we’ve done it only so that we could make war more efficiently. Against other humans. Or against nature.

Consider – whales talk. Their whistles and grunts can travel great distances in the ocean.

But there is no way that an Atlantic whale can help a Pacific whale find food, or extricate itself from a net.

But a doctor in Wuhan can assist a doctor in Wichita treat a COVID-19 patient. A faceless voice in India can help me fix a computer glitch in Canada. A rocket technician in Moscow can send an American astronaut to the international space station.

We are who we are because we work together. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

Whether we’re acting together on life’s stage, or performing a solo before an audience, we need each other. Would Mark Antony have delivered his famous “Friends! Romans! Countrymen!” speech to an empty plaza if everyone had stayed home to watch Netflix?

I write alone, true. I have to. But I write because, like Antony, I have an audience to write for.

Even the joy of skiing, for me, is not the skiing itself. Part of the pleasure is the conversation in someone’s car, there and back.

Sitting in the lodge, eating a sandwich together. Talking about which trails we took.

And did we see the rabbits, the coyote track, the sunlight turning a field of snow crystals into dancing diamonds…

Being alone offers some benefits, certainly.

But they’re no substitute for being together.

Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country.

rewrite@shaw.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
Fraud alert issued by Vernon police

Busy start to year with more than 30 frauds reported already

Les Louis collaborated with Clint George to create the Pelmewash Parkway Indigenous sculptures in Lake Country. (Video still)
First Indigenous territory recognition made in Lake Country

Council makes historic move after Syilx artists create parkway sculptures

Thirty-four unionized workers represented by MoveUp started rotating job action at VantageOne Credit Union's two Vernon locations Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Workers are calling for basic job protection and fair security. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
VantageOne staff urged to take tentative deal in Vernon

It’s been more than one month since union workers went on strike

A part-time staff member at Vernon’s Chartwell Carrington Place Retirement Residence has tested positive for COVID-19, the seniors home’s general manager said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Chartwell photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Vernon seniors home

An employee at Carrington Place has tested positive; Interior Health is not declaring an outbreak

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon COVID-19 care home deaths now up to 13

Another member of Noric House has passed

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Authorities have confirmed a case of COVID-19 within a school in Kelowna. Someone within the Rutland Elementary School community has tested positive. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express/FILE)
Authorities confirm COVID-19 exposure in Central Okanagan school

Interior Health (IH) states they will be following up with anyone potentially exposed

Most Read