Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Embracing Our Quiet Life of Words and the Natural World

Twenty years ago I couldn't be alone. I hated it. So I set out to feel comfortable with my own company and with the ideas of peace, quiet, and solitude. I read people like Paul Tillich and Sam Keen and Joseph Campbell; Tom Robbins and John Irving. I mixed non-fiction with fiction. Then I practiced what I learned. Leaving behind the Undertoad, my little paper with a big voice, in a city that ...loved to talk and read about itself once seemed impossible. That's when my love of nature kicked in and I became young again and rediscovered the mountains of my youth. By that time it was too late to change what would happen next. Mary Eaton, a Newburyport artist and political blogger wrote the following about me when I started climbing mountains but still lived in Newburyport. She said something like "I can remember seeing him at City Council meetings and thinking 'we've lost him'".

Our life in Jackson is a pretty little thing. We absorb the quiet and make it our own. We avoid crowded places and most social events and you will never again see us on a crowded summit or mountain trail. I'm thankful for our good friends and for learning to embrace what the theologian Tillich was talking about in his famous quote.

When we get our little farm one day, I envision it being tucked away with plenty of privacy. A place where nature and the lives of carefree animals conspire to create a piece of paradise.

Our book tells our story, as does our blog and Facebook page. Other than that we are extremely public when we have author events. They are great fun, but they are a rarity. I like the excitement of being around so many appreciative readers, but I also like driving away and all the quiet that follows and allows us just to get back to being us. And allows me to embrace my love of words. Those written by others, and the ones that dance in my head and from time to time make it into something I write.

I say all of this because it took me years to realize that solitude is my friend. During the last five years, I cannot remember a day when I have been lonely.

Out of many things, I believe this is one of the things I'm proudest of - the ability to be quiet.

I also address this at this time of year because the White Mountains are glorious during the summer and vacationers come from far and near to see the attractions, to breathe the clean air, to walk the wooded paths, and to stand atop a mountain or two. And each summer I receive many wonderful emails, letters, comments on the blogs, and even a few posts out on this page when people write that they loved the book and reading the blog and our daily posts and they want to get together. Please don't take it as an insult that I can't imagine ever wanting to do that. Some people get angry or frustrated that I do not want to get together, meet for dinner, or drinks. Believe me, it says more about me than it does you. Ask my friends, I don't often do these things with some of them. We really do enjoy our quiet lives.

It's an honor to think that we have introduced hundreds (if not more) people from around the world to the pleasures of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It's great hearing that people travel here to experience the region after reading our book. I truly love that. Adventure awaits you here, but so does peace and quiet. We wish all who travel here the same joy in discovering them that we have.

Enjoy your Friday night, everyone. And may you do something enjoyable this weekend.


Unknown said...

Hi Tom,
Another great read and thoroughly
I would never think less of you for wanting to maintain your privacy.
Have a great summer my friend.

Unknown said...

There is so much truth in what you write. Thank you. Wishing you all the peace and quiet you desire. Best to you, Atticus and Will.

Anonymous said...

There is so much in what you write that I can relate to. I, too, live in a rural area in the mountains of Tennessee and enjoy the quiet and solitude. It's quiet and beautiful and each day brings a new joy for me.

Anonymous said...

The times I have felt most lonely I was in a crowd. The times I have felt most a part of things, I was in the woods, alone with my dog. A good dog and a splendid mountain view brings us both companionship and solitude.


Betty and Lenny said...

Wishes for a peaceful and quiet week ahead. Looking forward to second look at pics and showing Lenny what he missed.

KarenD said...

Your posts calm me. I have a busy life. Sometimes when I am really stressed I just feel a need to read your pages. I can feel my blood pressure lower and my nerves settle down. You, Atti and Will have a heavenly life. Thank you for sharing it.