What happens when solitude is akin to home?

When the stitch of urban pavement, the zipper of metal automobiles is what needs conquering where my personal demons are concerned?

Because a lack of solitude makes me uneasy.

It was suburbanization that made me doubt if I could face the woman I was amidst the cash registers, the four lanes of traffic, and the matching shams and duvet with yellow flowers.

In a recent Outside magazine article, Thayer Walker, dropped off on a deserted island for 20 days, notes, “When the skills that serve you so well in society become worthless, a lot of scary shit comes out.”

i.e. He had “self confidence” problems.


I have the opposite problem.

I’ve written elsewhere of how, during the scant years of my early twenties when I inhabited a Midwest suburban city, I had this craving to have my flesh scraped, picked away at, to expose something more raw.

Social skills be damned.

Driving down a tollway I imagined tall concrete highway dividers rubbing at my deltoids. I imagined leaning forward, chest first, to grind down the armor.

I wanted something to break me open—an ice axe to chip down to what hints of Vermont I had left hidden in my flesh.


(I wonder now, if, in some other mental state, I might have been a cutter. There was something so urgent about the flatness of my body. It would have been so simple … )

In solitude, I am naked.


And if, in this stripped state of being, pores bleed truth, then to clamp down on that very state of being is to suffocate.

And I am most at ease in nakedness.

It is, I suppose, why I’m half to blame for a certain running teams’ naked runs through the woods each season.

It is why I disagree with the statement that skinny dipping is best done after dark.

It is why, perhaps, I stand stronger in the company of no one.

Why you find me here, in the mountains, rather than a suburban jungle.

Yet the irony is, after retreating from said suburbia, after regaining my naked state, I learned to be romp bare in the presence of others.

I learned how to walk down a city street without needing an ice pick; to sweat hayfields, pine trees and granite dust in the hot heat of a paved summer.

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JENNIFER DUFFIELD WHITE is neither a flower child nor a wild child, merely a hybrid of the two. She was born in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, lived for several years in the Adirondacks, and she now resides in Montana where she field-tests mountain life and the writing life. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in publications including Narrative Magazine, Drunken Boat Journal, Witness, and Terrain.org. You can find her nonfiction in places such as Adirondack Life and Women's Adventure. She is a contributing editor to The Nervous Breakdown. Her website is here and she tumbles pretty photos here.

One response to “(I’m Not the Cutter Girl, Really) An Examination of Surburbia and Solitude”

  1. Lesly Rekve says:

    I will be reading more of your writings. When I have your book, how do I get the book to you to be autographed. Sincerely, Lesly Rekve

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