24 January 2020

"Wilderness solo" longread

"... I was always in the middle of some calculation or quantification with respect to time, and such thoughts were always predicated on an understanding of it as a precious and limited resource. What time was it right now? How much time was left for me to do the thing I was doing, and when would I have to stop doing it to do the next thing?..

I came to a clearing in a forest by a riverbank in Dartmoor national park, far enough from any trail that it seemed unlikely I would encounter anyone while I was there. I gathered some loose branches and stones and arranged them in a circle of about 10 metres in diameter, and then I walked into the circle and did not leave it until the same time the following day.

The short version of this story is that nothing happened in that time: that I did nothing and witnessed nothing, experienced only the passage of the hours and minutes, and the languid dynamics of my own boredom. The long version isn’t exactly The Iliad, either, but in that version something could be said to have happened. Because by the time I walked out of that circle the following afternoon, I’d had an entirely unexpected and intensely cathartic encounter with the passage of time, and with my own mortality.

This is a practice commonly referred to as a “wilderness solo”..."
The story continues at "Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours"


  1. I am SOOO glad I read that! The Guardian is a very important part of my life anyway but this tale of 24 hours in a circle in the woods was.......wonderful!

    1. I totally enjoy being alone in the woods, but usually exploring rather than sitting and pondering. I think the key elements for her success were 1) running water in the form of a stream within view of her spot (lake beach or ocean would be good too) and 2) no mosquitoes.


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