Rachel Denton lives alone. She has very limited contact with others, and she prefers it that way. She calls herself a hermit, and says she is firmly dedicated to a life of "silence and solitude."
Writing in today's Guardian, Denton explains that she has always preferred solitude, and that in 2002, she began living a hermit's life, moving to a cabin in the woods and living a simple life on an income of 8000 pounds per year. "On a typical day, I pray between 6am and 8am," Denton writes, "After breakfast, I work on my calligraphy business, perhaps on card designs or wedding invitations, until midday. I eat, nap and read until two, then work in the house or garden until five. Over supper, I listen to the radio for an hour, followed by more prayer. In the evenings I may sit and watch the fire, sew and wander around the garden."
There is a religious component to Denton's hermitage as well: she's taken vows of "poverty, chastity and obedience, which I have interpreted as simplicity, solitude and silence," to the Catholic church. I suspect that many will read this article and feel sorry for Denton, or brush her off as strange or pathetic in a way, or perhaps even view her as snobbish and removed. We have a tendency to look down upon those who prefer isolation as "weird" or "sad" because we think they lack the social skills to hang with the rest of us. And as someone who suffers from a pretty severe case of social anxiety, my instant reaction was "Yeah, I've wanted that cabin in the woods a few times," but the difference between myself and Rachel Denton is that my cabin would be a hiding place, a place built to help me avoid what I really want to be doing, which is socializing, whereas for Rachel Denton, it's a place where she IS doing what she really wants to be doing: being alone and deep in prayer.
"It is not always easy to live this way; I know it could be seen as a selfish life," Denton writes, "But having experienced the stillness and silence I have always longed for, I know that I am growing. I do really value friendships and relationships, but being alone is what I need to survive." In a world where most of us are desperately trying to connect with each other, it's oddly beautiful to hear from someone who has found a sense of peace simply by being alone.
I Am A Hermit [Guardian]