Are You Alone Or Are You Lonely?

Isn’t it secretly what we all – as tiny housers – want? Privacy? Seclusion? Excessive amounts of time to reflect, study, and pontificate. Don’t we just want solitude in order to commune with the nature around us, free of all man-made distraction? Just ask Thoreau.

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.

But even in his self-inflicted solitude HDT discovered something that most of us will spend our lives trying to make sense of. Being lonely and being alone are not the same thing. I should know. I spent a few years living in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn amidst hundreds of thousands of people, thousands of cars, dozens of trains, and endless noise (in its truest definition). And yet while I walked the sidewalks each day amongst scores of people I often felt more and more lonely each day. It was a far cry from the nods, smiles, and “morning” greetings I was used to growing up in the South. I wasn’t alone. I sure was lonely though. I realize now though that places like NYC are crowded with some of the loneliest people in the world. I was one of them. I think a bit part of that was because I had nothing to do; no sense of purpose. Sure I had a job and I had “home” responsibilities. I had no purpose in my community thought. The people I passed were inconsequential to me at that time. Granted I am at fault for much of that disconnect, it makes my feelings no less valid. I was reminded of all this recently when a National Geographic video crossed my computer screen: The Snow Guardian.

In the mid 1970s, with the initial intention of escaping the boredom of living in the remote location of Gothic Mountain, naturalist Billy Barr began meticulously collecting environmental data by measuring the snow depth, temperatures and noting the arrival of different species in the spring. Around the same time, he became “an unofficial caretaker” of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. In late 1990s, the lab’s resident ecologist David Inouye recognized the significance of Barr’s data and began sharing it with other scientists. Since then Barr’s records have been used in numerous scientific articles on climate change. The documentary, The Snow Guardian, is about Billy Barr and tells the tale of a man living in solitude – but not loneliness – for 40 years.

I would be doing a great disservice trying to explain Barr’s incredible journals and work observing the snow pack and animal migration in the Gothic Mountain range (found primarily in Colorado) for the better part of 40 years. I’ll leave that to the scientists and biologists. What I do want to point out is how Billy Barr’s life shaped itself from his isolation.

At the beginning of his time in the Gothic he lived in an 8′ x 10′ shack/cabin that was often mistaken – and left alone – by the National Park Service as one of their own. Barr spent much of his day chopping wood and watching the snow patterns. The rest of his time he would sit inside, learning to be quiet and learning who he was. Several years later he was able to build a larger cabin that would become his full-time home. Complete with a large solar array, passive solar heating, an indoor greenhouse, ample food supplies, a theatre room complete with an enviable Bollywood film collection, the cabin is but a small part of Billy’s existence. Like HDT, there has been meaning in his days. He chooses the solitude. He is not a tiny houser. He is not trying to live below the radar. In fact, he is a well respected researcher and hermit savant, and through his choices in life, has made an incredible impact on science and our understanding of how climate change effects the larger ecosystem.

  • Billy Barr has determined his need -vs- his want.
  • Billy Barr has built a home that represents his interests and his life.
  • Billy Barr tries to leave as little a footprint as possible on Gothic mountain.
  • Billy Barr is alone but certainly is not lonely.

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Earoline Terry - February 10, 2017 Reply

My son and have been displaced for almost a year now ,due and od lady inning in our apartment complex on February 10 she cause the apartments to be bruned down now my son and i Ave no home of our own Irving with my mom which he is miserable and wat me to get us a place to live We need help and quick very quick this is not a good place for us. Pleasehepus

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