Every other year it seems, I get the urge to head into the woods for two or three days of wintry solitude. Most people find the idea strange or irresponsible or just plain stupid and I do not argue with them. I imagine there are actually two layers to the idea that seem foreign – there’s the idea of tenting it alone, compounded by the notion of doing in the winter. I once had a relative tell me that she couldn’t understand why I would purposely put myself in harm’s way, why I would be so reckless – that I should consider the loved ones worrying about me, depending on me. (A more nimble mind than mine would have pointed to the pack of cigarettes sticking out of her purse and said, “Let’s talk about those.”) Now, I know to a certain degree, she has a point, but my winter outings are relatively tame; no ice climbing or hunting grizzlies. With the right gear, it’s not a big deal. I might backpack on skis for a few days or hike up a small mountain on snowshoes. I’m not a thrill-seeker, I try to find some seclusion and silence. The cold, the snow – they don’t just keep most of the people out of the woods, the keep the noise out, too. Lying bundled in a sleeping bag, the cold resting on your face, you can hear what Jack London called the White Silence, and it sends your mind to places it would never travel in day-to-day life. In his story of the same name, London portrayed the Silence as something humbling and frightening, but it's not - or at least it doesn't have to be. The Silence is simple, still, and restorative. It clears away the clutter and sends you back to the world with a sliver of that stillness. Maybe that sounds a little too touchy-feely, but I think it comes down to a simple question, “Can you see a difference between loneliness and solitude?” because there is one, and if you understand it, then you probably can understand the need for the latter. Time spent alone is time well spent, and I worry for the people who can’t or won’t give it to themselves, even though it's not required to be spent in remote places. I plan to show Violet the benefits of time by herself – whether she finds it in the woods, in her room, or on the street. If she chooses to go off into the wild to find it, sure, I’ll worry, but I’d worry more if she didn’t go, if she didn’t feel or understand the need. I feel it right now, and although I know I will be staying home this winter - Violet’s first, I know there will be days in future winters when I’ll be saying farewell to her and Linda, telling them not to worry, telling them that I’ll be back soon. Maybe some would say that doing so makes me less of a father, less of a husband, but I don’t believe it. Every time I go away, the drive home is always too long. More than anything, solitude reminds me of what’s waiting for me when I leave it behind.