P. is out in Vancouver now, visiting his mother and going to summer camp where he will play in the coastal waters and rainforests of the lower mainland of British Columbia. I woke up this morning in an unusual silence that wrapped the house. Even when he's sleeping in another room, there is less silence than this, but with P.'s departure a profound silence descends. I am alone, again; independent, again.
While laying there waking up I realized that there would not be a single dirty dish laying out that I did not eat from. Were I to stop eating, the dishes would stop becoming dirty. This is not true when you live with others, particularly your own children. Under such circumstances, even if you stop moving the world is affected in ways your are, at least in part, responsible for. Alone, however, it is only the quiet decay of the universe riding towards in it's love affair with entropy that creates change apart from your own actions.
This is the independence I remember from my single, childless years.
While laying there, now slightly more awake with these thoughts, it also occurred to me that were I to cease (a massive heart attack? an embolism in the brain finally giving way to the interior pressures, stroking my grey matter into ribbons? an unlikely small prince riding an equally unlikely comet crashing into my bed as I lay there, crushing me?) nobody would notice for days. (Ok, the comet scenario might attract some attention, granted.)
Friends who called would assume I was out or just not answering my phone as I sometimes do; perhaps, they might think, I was out of the country and forgot to tell them. My cats would eat the last of their food, drink the last of their water and then venture out to fend for themselves.
As I lay there thinking this, an interview with Mavis Gallant was broadcast on the CBC, wherein she recounted laying on the floor of her Paris apartment for three days until the concierge finally noticed her absence. I don't have a concierge, so even three days would seem very optimistic in my case. (These are the sorts of thoughts that come in the waking moments.) Most likely, my remains would just lie there until I didn't arrive in Vancouver in 10 days time, at which point people expecting me to arrive would begin to get worried.
There is a symmetry there: I don't move and the world doesn't change in response to me, but if I don't move anymore the world doesn't take notice either, at least not immediately.
Today is Canada Day. It is the 142nd anniversary of the founding of my country. We are a relatively young nation, as measured by our time being known as sovereign "Canada". It is an old land, however, populated for thousands of years: the oldest studied human settlement on our soil dates some 5,000 years back, though it is thought people arrived here between 12 and 25 thousand years ago. Not until 142 years ago, however, was it a whole nation from sea to sea independent, at least in theory, within our borders. This is, it struck me, somehow not unlike me waking this morning to find this house suddenly my own.
There is a feeling of liberation in this state of independence: no concern of others over whom we do not have the direct cerebral control we have over our selves. Such liberation causes people to celebrate. Today in Canada people are holding concerts and competitions and taking days off from work to wave little swatches of fabric inked with symbols we say represent our area, our region, our nation, our identity. It is a great feeling to be your own persons, is it not?
If that liberation is the only feeling, however, then existence disregards us in direct proportion to how much we are separated from that which is outside our tidy little borders (personal or national). In moments of independence, which I do enjoy, I am also reminded to consider the strength of sharing life and consideration with others.
Sure, it means I have to wash more dishes, including ones I never ate off of, but happily there is more to it than cleaning up after others from time to time, even if that is an unavoidable part of the pact. There is the opportunity to build and experience things together that do not come with solitude: memories, love, art, architecture and mechanism, families, nations, planets.
So I love waking up alone. I just don't want to do it too often.