When Henry David Thoureau took his leave into the woods of Walden, he said he wanted to learn to live deliberately. He claimed to “need the tonic of wildness” and that “we can never have enough of nature”. Since it is officially spring and the forests are coming alive again, it might be useful to rediscover the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit. The feeling you get when you are walking in the woods all alone with natures wonders all around, that is Waldeinsamkeit.
Waldeinsamkeit consists of two words: Wald meaning forest, and Einsamkeit meaning loneliness or solitude.
It is the feeling of being alone in the woods, but it also hints at a connectedness to nature. The feeling plays a big role in religion. Shedding one’s material possessions is often a prerequisite for joining an order of monks or priests. This act is called monasticism. Christianity has a long tradition of Saints who live in on the land and pursue Waldeinsamkeit. One famous example is St. Trudpert, who was given a piece of land within the Black Forest and retired there in a simple church in solitude, surrounded by nature. The image above was taken at St. Trudpert’s Abbey.
The solitude of wilderness as a motif is prevalent in both religion and literature. The entire literary movement known as Romanticism (1800-1850) centers on returning to nature and becoming a part of untamed nature. In Germany, authors and artists depicted individuals quelled by nature’s glory. Authors from this movement included E.T.A. Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Heinrich von Kleist. The word Waldeinsamkeit belongs to this movement; it describes not only a feeling, but an entire motif in romantic literature. Ludwid Tieck, a well known romantic German author, once composed an ode to Waldeinsamkeit in his story Fair Eckbert :
“Waldeinsamkeit, “Woodland Solitude
Wie liegst du weit! I rejoice in Thee
O dich gereut, Tomorrow as today
Einst mit der Zeit. – Forever and ever
Ach einzige Freud Oh how I enjoy,
Waldeinsamkeit!” Woodland Solitude!”
The woods, it seems, is the place to go to contemplate the loneliness of ones existence – or maybe just to get some fresh air. Regardless, spring has sprung, so its time for some Waldeinsamkeit!