The person who appears to be incredibly comfortable in their independence still needs another human within their reach. Not necessarily someone by their side all the time, but when the dark times descend each of us should know we are not in fact in complete isolation. Having that knowledge can make the difference between life and death.
I met a hermit once - he didn't want to be met - especially not by a whipper snapper like me. He had become very ill and was hospitalised. He was a reluctant participant in a clattering, institutionalised world. A ghostly visitor in a sterile box. He seemed so afraid and misplaced.
I remember on his admission to the ward looking into his eyes, holding his hand trying to get him to speak to me. Gently, quietly comforting him. A frightened, disorientated soul - and there was a depth behind those eyes - a depth which had me feeling his distress.
Over time, and he was in for several weeks, he became brighter, more engaged and unbelievably to those of us caring for him, interested in all of those around him. I was only a teenager then and even now I can shed a tear when I think of him. Alone for so long, and through a sequence of events his life brought him to the hustle and bustle of an alien world. On his discharge from hospital, as far as the medical staff were concerned he had recovered. So this frail old man was sent back home to reacquaint himself with a life he had long forgotten. I'd like to think he didn't just fall back into his old life of solitary confinement. I liked to imagine him walking to his local shop, chatting and laughing with his fellow villagers - those details I'll never know. I will remember forever the hermit I met in 1986 - and I hope that when his time came he knew he wasn't alone.
“I need someone to fold the sheet, someone to take the other end of the sheet and walk towards me and fold once , then step back , fold and walk towards me again .We all need someone to fold the sheet.Someone to hitch on the coat at the neck .Someone to put on the kettle. Someone to dry up while I wash.”
― Roger Deakin, Notes From Walnut Tree Farm