Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love was recently interviewed for her upcoming novel, The Signature of All Things. The book, out in October, is a story about the life a 19th century woman, the overeducated daughter of a Philadelphia plant trader. Similar to my novel, Gothic Spring, but with different outcomes, the book explores the boredom, near to insanity, that can overtake an intelligent female when she is hemmed in by the customs of society. Gilbert’s character, Almay Whittaker, decides to occupy herself with bryology, the study of the many mosses that flourish on her father’s estate. Supported by his immense wealth, she is allowed to pursue a narrow aspect of evolution and enters a fascinating world of knowledge and research.
Almay Whittaker is a woman who decides to be alone, who crafts a life based upon personal choice and who, therefore, raises a question in the mind of Maggie Caldwell, Gilbert’s interviewer. The question is, does Gilbert, a world traveler — someone frequently in transit or in foreign lands — ever get lonely. Her reply? “Oh my God, yes!” (“Gather No Moss,” by Maggie Caldwell, Mother Jones, 9/10, 13, pg.58.) But, when asked if she has any regrets for her solitary life, she admits to none and offers this piece of advice:
…it’s particularly important for women, and especially for young women, to learn how to be lonely and move through it and come out on the other side and see that you’re intact – and then have the power to decide whether you actually really want to be with someone.” (Ibid, pg. 59.)
Having traveled solo much of the globe myself, I know what Gilbert means – that scary obligation to fend for yourself and the triumph of doing it! The feeling is unlike being a part of something. The feeling is of being whole.
(Picutre of Elizabeth Gilbert courtesy of oprah.com)