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Written by Abdun Nur   

The Love of Solitude

By Abdun Nur

There lived an old woman; she was outwardly mean in spirit and action, rude to all she encountered, even to the point of being abusive if the mood took her. She lived alone, a spinster with a dozen cats for company in an old house too big for her needs, its rooms neglected, its garden over grown.

 

Her neighbours ignored her mostly, she was seen as a mad old cat lady, and the local children stayed well away from her, thinking she was a witch, due mainly to her scruffy dress and unkempt hair.

 

She was not a lazy woman, although that would be hard to determine superficially, she was a preoccupied woman. She invested her time in the pursuit of one thing, she was an artist, she was not interested in selling her art, or having anyone see her art, but within her a powerful passion and creativity drove her immense talent, for she was not an ordinary artist, but a artist without equal, her creations were stunning, her subject matter infinite in scope, she had dedicated her life to this endeavour, her work was her great love, for this love she had shut out the other distractions.

 

She was very old now, but her talent had only matured with age, her skills were now greater than ever, in every room of her large house paintings were stacked floor to ceiling, carefully wrapped and protected, because her paintings were her children, her only love, her family.

 

When she painted she was happy, the pleasure of completing a masterpiece to her had no equal, she had been fortunate to have had inherited the house and a small fortune from her parents, which had sustained her, and her passion throughout her life.

 

The talent to paint, draw and create had always been with her, in her youth her parents encouraged her passion, and were proud of her abilities and skills, she was dearly loved, but time passed and death took those she loved, then the activities of life left the house, only the painting remained, the only light in the darkness to her.

 

In her passion she was pure, uncompromising and steadfast, but she was treated contemptuously by the towns folk, avoided and judged harshly, in responses she was rude and abusive, this had, over the years caused a vicious circle of continued negativity whenever she ventured out, making her more and more reclusive.

 

One day a letter arrived at the cat ladies house, not a bill or circular, which was all she ever received, but an actual letter, it was from her cousins daughter, she remembered her Aunty Deirdre’s daughter Hilda from her childhood, a life time ago, her daughter was writing to tell her Hilda had died and the funeral was the following day at 12pm, and the family would like her to attend as Hilda had always spoken fondly of her.

 

She thought about it a little while, and then decided not to attend. Around dinnertime that same day there was an unexpected knock at the door.

 

When she opened the door there stood a young woman, well dressed and quite beautiful. She smiled at the cat lady, who was frowning. “Yes girl what do you want?” She asked her.

 

“Hello I’m Hilda’s daughter, Cathy, I wrote to you about the funeral, but knowing you are reclusive, I was afraid you would decide not to attend the funeral, so I thought I’d come and try to convince you in person.” The Young girl replied.

 

“I haven’t seen Hilda since we were girls, she was my best friend growing up, we had many good adventures.” The old woman said sadly. She sighed. “OK. I suppose you can come in, would you like a cup of tea?” She asked the girl as she walked away.

 

“That would be lovely.” She replied walking into the house, but as she entered she stopped dead, what she saw was unbelievable, the walls were covered in paintings, she looked at them as she began to slowly move into the passageway, hypnotized by the incredible detail, the depth, the skill, the subject matter, the quality of these painting was simply amazing.

 

“This way girl.” The old woman gestured.

 

She invited her into the living room, a coal fire was burning in the hearth, the cats were dotted around sleeping, and a row of partly completed canvases were lined up on easels facing the large window over looking her garden.

 

The girl was dumbstruck, all she could do was to marvel at each new masterpiece she came across. “I’ll be right back with the tea, take a seat.” The old woman told her as she left the room.

 

The girl toured the living room, examining some of the paintings, and drawings, not just hung on the walls, but stacked up, in that room alone there must have been several hundred paintings. And each one was simply amazing.

 

“Here’s the tea.” The old woman said as she walked into the living room carrying a tray with tea and biscuits.

 

“Thank you,” The girl said as she took a seat near the fire. “I was just admiring your art work, you have amazing talent.” The girl told her.

 

“At every moment you choose yourself.” The old woman said cryptically. “I have a photo album of your mother and I when we were girls, would you like to see it?” The old woman asked.

 

“Please.” The girl replied, they drank tea and chatted, the old woman reminisced about her youth as they examined the photo album.

 

“Why did you and my mother lose touch?” The girl pried.

 

“She wanted the world, I wanted the adventure. She chose a path that did not interest me, and over the years my disinterest drove her away I suppose.” The old woman replied.

 

 “Adventure? Have you travelled widely?” The girl asked.

 

“I have never travelled beyond short distances, why would I leave my true love?” Replied the old woman.

 

“How could you create the images you have painted, there isn’t even a television here?” The girl puzzled.

 

“My paintings are the visions I create from reading the imaginings of others, books are the source of my inspirations mainly.” The old woman answered.

 

“Do you sell your work?” Cathy asked.

 

“No! I have never sold a painting.” The old woman said.

 

“You do not want to sell your work?” Persisted the girl.

 

“Why would I sell the product of my soul for money, I have enough money, but I can never replace a child, these painting are my great love, each to me is a child, I give birth to them, and they in return give me pleasure, I have so many children now I am neglecting them, they fill this house, some I haven’t seen in 60 years.” The old woman said a little sadly.

 

“Will you attend my mothers funeral tomorrow?” Cathy asked.

 

“Yes.” Replied the old woman, they chatted a little more before the young girl left.

 

The next day all dressed in her best clothes the old woman attended the funeral, family she had not seen in many decades, and who were almost beyond recognition now from the souls she had known, came over and spoke with her, she learned of those she had know who had long since died, of the lives those that remained had lived. After the funeral she returned home.

 

The following week there was a knock at the door, when she opened it a large group confronted her, at its head was Cathy, the group were her family, those she had lost touch, until the funeral. “This is unexpected.” The old woman said seeing the multitude.

 

The family filled her living room, drinking tea and eating cakes, chatting among themselves. The old woman had brought in every chair she owned, and now all were seated she sat down herself.

 

“So why have you all come?” She asked them.

 

“All have missed you, and we decided the pain of your loneliness has been endured for long enough.” Cathy said.

 

“You mistake the pain of loneliness, for the glory of solitude. Loneliness only exists if you have a poverty of the soul, solitude is chosen by a soul that wants no distractions. Only in solitude are we truly free. Solitude stimulates the creative mind; it hones the skills, and focuses the perceptions.

 

I learned how to be happy through solitude, now I can’t tolerate being around people who drain that state of love. Being solitary is central to the art of loving, I need no escape from my self, I need no other to give validity to my being.” The old woman smiled.

 

The group sat in silence. A woman, who was the old ladies cousin, spoke. “But we have missed you, we are all amazed at the work you have done, the paintings are quite beautiful. You must share them with the world.”

 

“If I shared my work, then the luxury of my solitude would no longer exist, solitude is an achievement, not a sufferance.” The old woman replied.

 

“Sixty years of solitude must be enough surly?” Her cousin asked.

 

“Solitude teaches you many things, but beyond that it gives you peace, allows complete independence, teaching you to rely only upon yourself, and most importantly for me it affords a profound silence to focus the mind.” The old woman smiled.

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